Sunday, December 30, 2007

In the Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop

In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited and read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.
Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
--Aunt Consuelo's voice--
not very loud or long.
I wasn't at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn't. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I--we--were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you'll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
--I couldn't look any higher--
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.

Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
What similarities
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How--I didn't know any
word for it--how "unlikely". . .
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn't?

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Moose by Elizabeth Bishop

For Grace Bulmer Bowers

From narrow provinces

of fish and bread and tea,

home of the long tides

where the bay leaves the sea

twice a day and takes

the herrings long rides,

where if the river

enters or retreats

in a wall of brown foam

depends on if it meets

the bay coming in,

the bay not at home;

where, silted red,

sometimes the sun sets

facing a red sea,

and others, veins the flats'

lavender, rich mud

in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,

down rows of sugar maples,

past clapboard farmhouses

and neat, clapboard churches,

bleached, ridged as clamshells,

past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon

a bus journeys west,

the windshield flashing pink,

pink glancing off of metal,

brushing the dented flank

of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,

and waits, patient, while

a lone traveller gives

kisses and embraces

to seven relatives

and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,

to the farm, to the dog.

The bus starts. The light

grows richer; the fog,

shifting, salty, thin,

comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals

form and slide and settle

in the white hens' feathers,

in gray glazed cabbages,

on the cabbage roses

and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling

to their wet white string

on the whitewashed fences;

bumblebees creep

inside the foxgloves,

and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.

Then the Economies

Lower, Middle, Upper;

Five Islands, Five Houses,

where a woman shakes a tablecloth

out after supper.

A pale flickering. Gone.

The Tantramar marshes

and the smell of salt hay.

An iron bridge trembles

and a loose plank rattles

but doesn't give way.

On the left, a red light

swims through the dark:

a ship's port lantern.

Two rubber boots show,

illuminated, solemn.

A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in

with two market bags,

brisk, freckled, elderly.

"A grand night. Yes, sir,

all the way to Boston."

She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter

the New Brunswick woods,

hairy, scratchy, splintery;

moonlight and mist

caught in them like lamb's wool

on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.

Snores. Some long sighs.

A dreamy divagation

begins in the night,

a gentle, auditory,

slow hallucination. . . .

In the creakings and noises,

an old conversation

--not concerning us,

but recognizable, somewhere,

back in the bus:

Grandparents' voices


talking, in Eternity:

names being mentioned,

things cleared up finally;

what he said, what she said,

who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;

the year he remarried;

the year (something) happened.

She died in childbirth.

That was the son lost

when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.

She went to the bad.

When Amos began to pray

even in the store and

finally the family had

to put him away.

"Yes . . ." that peculiar

affirmative. "Yes . . ."

A sharp, indrawn breath,

half groan, half acceptance,

that means "Life's like that.

We know it (also death)."

Talking the way they talked

in the old featherbed,

peacefully, on and on,

dim lamplight in the hall,

down in the kitchen, the dog

tucked in her shawl.

Now, it's all right now

even to fall asleep

just as on all those nights.

--Suddenly the bus driver

stops with a jolt,

turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of

the impenetrable wood

and stands there, looms, rather,

in the middle of the road.

It approaches; it sniffs at

the bus's hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,

high as a church,

homely as a house

(or, safe as houses).

A man's voice assures us

"Perfectly harmless. . . ."

Some of the passengers

exclaim in whispers,

childishly, softly,

"Sure are big creatures."

"It's awful plain."

"Look! It's a she!"

Taking her time,

she looks the bus over,

grand, otherworldly.

Why, why do we feel

(we all feel) this sweet

sensation of joy?

"Curious creatures,"

says our quiet driver,

rolling his r's.

"Look at that, would you."

Then he shifts gears.

For a moment longer,

by craning backward,

the moose can be seen

on the moonlit macadam;

then there's a dim

smell of moose, an acrid

smell of gasoline.

From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. See

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Old Maids by Sandra Cisneros

My cousins and I,
we don't marry.
We're too old
by Mexican standards.

And the relatives
have long suspected
we can't anymore
in white.

My cousins and I,
we're all old
maids at thirty.

Who won't dress children,
and never saints--
though we undress them.

The aunts,
they've given up on us.
No longer nudge--You're next.

What happened in your childhood?
What left you all mean teens?
Who hurt you, honey?

But we've studied
marriages too long--

Aunt Ariadne,
Tia Vashti,
Comadre Penelope,
querida Malintzin,
Senora Pumpkin Shell--

lessons that served us well.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Coal by Audre Lorde

is the total black, being spoken
from the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a word, colored
by who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open like a diamond
on glass windows
singing out within the crash of sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
in a perforated book - buy and sign and tear apart -
and come whatever wills all chances
the stub remains
an ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
breeding like adders. Other know sun
seeking like gypsies over my tongue
to explode through my lips
like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
bedevil me

Love is word, another kind of open.
As the diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am Black because I come from the earth's inside
Now take my word for jewel in the open light.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

On A Night of The Full Moon by Audre Lorde


Out of my flesh that hungers
and my mouth that knows
comes the shape I am seeking

for reason.
The curve of your waiting body
fits my waiting hand
your breasts warm as sunlight
your lips quick as young birds
between your thighs the sweet
sharp taste of limes

Thus I hold you
frank in my heart's eye
in my skin's knowing
as my fingers conceive your flesh

I feel your stomach
moving against mine

Before the moon wanes again
we shall come together.


And I would be the moon
spoken over your beckoning flesh
breaking against reservations
beaching thought
my hands at your high tide
over and under inside you
and the passing of hungers
attended, forgotten.

Darkly risen
the moon speaks
my eyes
judging your roundness

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

[First published in 1845]

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Afterlife by Joan Larkin

I’m older than my father when he turned
bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver
in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain. I don’t
believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is
now his flesh has finished rotting from his long
bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only
convert under those rows and rows of headstones.
Once, washing dishes in a narrow kitchen
I heard him whistling behind me. My nape froze.
Nothing like this has happened since. But this morning
we were on a plane to Virginia together. I was 17,
pregnant and scared. Abortion was waiting,
my aunt’s guest bed soaked with blood, my mother
screaming—and he was saying Kids get into trouble—
I’m getting it now: this was forgiveness.
I think if he’d lived he’d have changed and grown
but what would he have made of my flood of words
after he’d said in a low voice as the plane
descended to Richmond in clean daylight
and the stewardess walked between the rows
in her neat skirt and tucked-in blouse
Don’t ever tell this to anyone.

From My Body: New and Selected Poems by Joan Larkin. Copyright © 2007 by Joan Larkin. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press. On American Academy of Poets. ord

Friday, August 31, 2007

_The Dream Songs_, #4, John Berryman

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.--Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

--Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
--Mr. Bones: there is.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moon and Earth, Alicia Ostriker

Of one substance, of one
Matter, they have cruelly
Broken apart. They never will touch

Each other again. The shining
Lovelier and younger
Turns away, a pitiful girl.

She is completely naked
And it hurts. The larger
Motherly one, breathlessly luminous

Emerald, and blue, and white
Traveling mists, suffers
Birth and death, birth

And death, and the shock
Of internal heat killed by external cold.
They are dancing through that blackness.

They press as if
To come closer, to obtain
A reunion. What divides them

Will always be as invisible as glass.
The girl will always appear to be serene
As a young actress. She does not shed a tear.

The blue-clad woman moans,
Sings to herself, and following
The daughter’s distant

Movements as best
They can, back and forth, in turbulence
Or in calm, rising and falling,

Her waters
Make the image
Of everything.

Alicia Ostriker
_A Woman Under the Surface_

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bleeding, May Swenson

Swenson's shaped version of "Bleeding" with the gash of white space zigzagging down the center of the poem is not preserved in my blog version. But if you click on the above title, you'll go to the Washington U site where several of Swenson's poems, including "Bleeding," are displayed in their shaped version as they originally appeared in _Iconographs_, 1970.

Stop bleeding said the knife
I would if I could said the cut.
Stop bleeding you make me messy with the blood.
I'm sorry said the cut.
Stop or I will sink in farther said the knife.
Don't said the cut.
The knife did not say it couldn't help it but
it sank in farther.
If only you didn't bleed said the knife I wouldn't
have to do this.
I know said the cut I bleed too easily I hate
that I can't help it I wish I were a knife like
you and didn't have to bleed.
Well meanwhile stop bleeding will you said the knife.
Yes you are a mess and sinking in deeper said the cut I
will have to stop.
Have you stopped by now said the knife.
I've almost stopped I think.
Why must you bleed in the first place said the knife.
For the same reason maybe that you must do what you
must do said the cut.
I can't stand bleeding said the knife and sank in farther.
I hate it too said the cut I know it isn't you it's
me you're lucky to be a knife you ought to be glad about that.
Too many cuts around said the knife they're
messy I don't know how they stand themselves.
They don't said the cut.
You're bleeding again.
No I've stopped said the cut see you are coming out now the
blood is drying it will rub off you'll be shiny again and clean.
If only cuts wouldn't bleed so much said the knife coming
out a little.
But then knives might become dull said the cut.
Aren't you still bleeding a little said the knife.
I hope not said the cut.
I feel you are just a little.
Maybe just a little but I can stop now.
I feel a little wetness still said the knife sinking in a
little but then coming out a little.
Just a little maybe just enough said the cut.
That's enough now stop now do you feel better now said the knife.
I feel I have to bleed to feel I think said the cut.
I don't I don't have to feel said the knife drying now
becoming shiny.

From Iconographs by May Swenson. Published by Scribner Copyright © 1970 the Literary Estate of May Swenson.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Paper Nautilus by Marianne Moore

For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
Writers entrapped by
teatime fame and by
commuters' comforts? Not for these
the paper nautilus
constructs her thin glass shell.

Giving her perishable
souvenir of hope, a dull
white outside and smooth-
edged inner surface
glossy as the sea, the watchful
maker of it guards it
day and night; she scarcely

eats until the eggs are hatched.
Buried eight-fold in her eight
arms, for she is in
a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight
is hid but is not crushed;
as Hercules, bitten

by a crab loyal to the hydra,
was hindered to succeed,
the intensively
watched eggs coming from
the shell free it when they are freed,--
leaving its wasp-nest flaws
of white on white, and close-

laid Ionic chiton-folds
like the lines in the mane of
a Parthenon horse,
round which the arms had
wound themselves as if they knew love
is the only fortress
strong enough to trust to.

From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Anna Claire" by Chella Courington

I adore Anna Claire.
She has soft brown hair, deeply violet eyes.
I ask Jesus to make mine just like hers.

We seal a pact in blood--
best friends forever--
prick our index fingers,
press them so tight
the tips turn white.

September we bury photos
taken in a booth where we played hooky.
We grin, hug, kiss, and wave.

We share Saturday night basement parties.
Mostly girls dance with girls
but some boys, like Billy Frank, break in.

Anna Claire calls him a clod with two left feet.
When he walks away to put on Johnny Mathis,
she grabs my hand, drags me to the side.
'Chances Are' is our song.

He calls Anna Claire a downright bitch,
sometimes to her face, more often to mine.
He usually sounds full of himself
like the time he asks me to the drive-in,
says I better go or he’ll nab a real girl.
Anna Claire laughs,
ugly jackass.

He’s okay, not a dreamy Troy Donahue
but other girls want him.
I don’t turn him down.
Anna Claire flies into me,
says not to do anything I don’t want to.
You’re just a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

She’s right.
I want to dance, sing, talk away the days with her.
At fourteen I desert Anna Claire,
move to another world
where real girls do exactly as they want.

“Anna Claire” was first published in the anthology _Regrets_. Ed. Martha Manno. Seekonk, MA: Little Pear Press, 2006.
The poem was written in August 2003, the summer I returned to writing poetry after more than a 20-year lapse.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dream Song 29 by John Berryman

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
s├│ heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. From

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SUBSEQUENTLY by Chella Courington

You gave me a cactus pear
after our daughter
off the boat and you
under spiral blades
to raise her
from the bloody floor
a rose anemone
for spring
not for you.

Did you jump
for her
or did the white lady
with silver hair
like the moon
reach up
and pull you
into an ocean
not salty
to bear your gamy
spitting it back to me
after night?

In darkness
I dive
past star feathers
and sea pansies
searching for my child
not for you
until I find her
in a conch shell
luminously pink
for sun.

This poem appears in the recent issue of Karamu, edited by Olga Abella and published by Eastern Illinois University.

Friday, July 06, 2007

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" by Walt Whitman

Reproduced here is the first stanza of Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" from Hit on the above link to read the rest of this magnificent poem.

OUT of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
Down from the shower’d halo,
Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they were alive,
Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
From your memories, sad brother—from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears,
From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist,
From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
Borne hither—ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
A man—yet by these tears a little boy again,
Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves,
I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them,
A reminiscence sing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Syrinx by Amy Clampitt

Like the foghorn that's all lung,
the wind chime that's all percussion,
like the wind itself, that's merely air
in a terrible fret, without so much
as a finger to articulate
what ails it, the aeolian
syrinx, that reed
in the throat of a bird,
when it comes to the shaping of
what we call consonants, is
too imprecise for consensus
about what it even seems to
be saying: is it o-ka-lee
or con-ka-ree, is it really jug jug,
is it cuckoo for that matter?—
much less whether a bird's call
means anything in
particular, or at all.

Syntax comes last, there can be
no doubt of it: came last,
can be thought of (is
thought of by some) as a
higher form of expression:
is, in extremity, first to
be jettisoned: as the diva
onstage, all soaring
pectoral breathwork,
takes off, pure vowel
breaking free of the dry,
the merely fricative
husk of the particular, rises
past saying anything, any
more than the wind in
the trees, waves breaking,
or Homer's gibbering
Thespesiae iache:

those last-chance vestiges
above the threshold, the all-
but dispossessed of breath.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

since feeling is first by e.e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ellen Bass: "Gate C22"

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching—
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after—if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now—you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

Ellen Bass

The above poem is taken from _The Human Line_, forthcoming next month ( June 2007) from Copper
Canyon Press. Bass also has published several non-fiction books, including _The Courage to Heal_.
In 2001 she won the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I wake to his erection
like a gun in my back.

It forces me to lie still
breathe shallow.
His arm over my shoulder
pins me to the mattress.

He’s dead asleep.

Why don’t I lift myself
out of the bed, walk
out the door, out
of his life into my own?

Sun slants through venetians
turns the comforter
into bars of shadow.

He rolls over
away from me.

Still I lie.


The wife got the furniture
kids during the week
SUV and dog.

The husband got the house
kids every other weekend
car and timeshare.

Who were they thirty years ago?
She in lace and he in wool
repeating vows
snatched from movies.

Each 24 hours thereafter
they moved imperceptibly
until countless revolutions
eclipsed the girl in white
boy in blue

The Missing Persons Bureau
admits defeat in this case.
"No trace of them exists.
They vanished into air."

First published in _Leaf by Leaf_ (Spring 2007),
Evergreen Community College.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


me over your arm
my hair like Rapunzel's
swinging out the window
red clover lured bees
one flower to the next
you sucked juice from a mango
fleshy fruit dad called it
merchant marine who thought
life began in Mozambique or Malibu
anywhere but hovered over two kids
never still long enough to please
mom packing peanut butter sandwiches
dropping us at Evans Elementary
before she climbed
three floors to her classroom
hung with posters of Shakespeare & Petrarch
waiting for the first bell
kids in starched dresses & creased khakis
slid into desks older than mom
hearts with initials
RM & JC carved in wood
caked with grime
years of restless fingers
scratched letters over letters
palimpsest of love
inscribing what had been inscribed
glossing what could never be glossed
two people met at the turn
clasped & fell away

Published in _Leaf by Leaf_ (Spring 2007).
Evergreen Community College.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Miguel Gandert & "From Juarez"

One of my early poems, “From Juarez,” was based on a photograph by Miguel Gandert, a photographer who teaches at the University of New Mexico. Yesterday a dear friend who works there sent me Gandert’s University link that I include above.

(after a photograph by Miguel Gandert)

I'm Teresa Gutierrez. Look at me. Alive.
Not like my friend Cecilia Covarrubias. Shot
once in each breast and tossed in a field
where nothing grows.

The next day I ask my cousin to work
his magic. Tattoo the Blessed Mother.
Clothed with the stars and sun.
Spiked light down my back.

He lines and shades
week after week.
I flinch and turn away.
See our Lady of Guadalupe
rise out of my jeans.

Carry her with me.

To the maquiladora.
To dark streets after the second shift
crossroads where the bus stops.

Her mantle around me.

First Published in _Confluence_ (vol. 17, 2006), Ed. Wilma Acree

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Poetry Contest Winner: "Cant Quit"

Dear Poet Lovers & Contest Entrants,
I was quite pleased with the large number of good poems entered in this year’s “Gravity & Light” contest.
After several weeks of mulling over the poems, the judges are pleased to announce this year’s winning poem:
“Cant” by Allison Hummell. Congratulations, Allison, for a memorable and surprising poem!

"Cant Quit" 

Why do you think you’re allowed
To be so bad?
God knows you’re the worst thing
I ever had,
A good boy grown into a bastard of a man.
The kind you want to knock down like a strike or spare.
The kind you want to throw all of their
Cigarettes down the sink.
The kind you want to break their sunglasses
And puncture their tires.
(Just like you punctured my poor blue heart.)
The kind you want to take off their shirt
Like you'd take the shirt off the lord if you could.
The kind you want to light on fire with a waterproof match
because they make you cry mercy.
The kind you want to hold their hand tight as Lennie held that other
man's wife.
The kind you want to make fall to their knees and bleed.
The kind you want to curse and meet again in hell
so you can do it all again.
The kind you cant quit. 

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Annual Poetry Contest

Gravity and Light announces the second annual poetry contest. Poets may submit up to three poems, no longer than 40 lines each. Send cover page with name & address, & contact information: phone, cell phone, and e-mail address to: Deadline for entries is April 30, 2007. Only electronic entries pasted into the body of an email are accepted. In the subject line, write Contest Poetry Sub. Winning poetry will be published at Gravity and Light in early May.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writers at Work

I'm honored that one of my poems is featured at Writers at Work during February--the month of my father's birth 90 years ago! Please click on the link above.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stories I Want to Tell

Peter all in blue
flies from Mr. McGregor
drops one shoe
in cabbage
in potatoes.

My hero
outwits this farmer
every garden turn.
Forfeits jacket
before slipping
under gate.

In my story
Peter finds me
outside with a pink suitcase.

But don’t mistake us
no Alice and Mad Hatter
no Grace and White Rabbit.

We are Chella and Peter
in a wood at dusk
far from family noise.

He tells me his grandfather
sacrificed his own tail
to save Otter.

I want to confess
my father shoots otter
bruises me
when mother’s not home.

I want to say
some pain is worse
than dying.

Peter holds my hand
under the harvest moon
stars floating downstream.

First Published: _Phantasmagoria_ (vol.5, no. 2), ed. Abigail Allen.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

(after a photograph by Miguel Gandert)

I'm Teresa Gutierrez. Look at me. Alive.
Not like my friend Cecilia Covarrubias. Shot
once in each breast and tossed in a field
where nothing grows.

The next day I ask my cousin to work
his magic. Tattoo the Blessed Mother.
Clothed with the stars and sun.
Spiked light down my back.

He lines and shades
week after week.
I flinch and turn away.
See our Lady of Guadalupe
rise out of my jeans.

Carry her with me.

To the maquiladora.
To dark streets after the second shift
crossroads where the bus stops.

Her mantle around me.

First Published in _Confluence_ (vol. 17, 2006), Ed. Wilma Acree