Archive for September, 2017

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Hardship in a Nice Place by Jack Ridl

The roof on our house slants out
over the garden and if it rains
the water falls on what blossoms

still arc in late August. My wife
is sleeping through her day. There
is a breeze here on the porch. There

is a certain slant of light collapsing
through the beech trees on the hill. One
tree fell this afternoon. I could hear it

cracking into the quiet, saw an angle
of trunk begin to lean and then rustle
its branches across the limbs along

the stagger of woods. At night, sounds
come I can never identify. It’s often
like that, our long days lacking much

of anything that can be named. My
wife will sleep. I will walk back from
the mailbox with our dog and wait.

From: https://www.rattle.com/hardship-in-a-nice-place-by-jack-ridl/

Date: 2012

By: Jack Ridl (1944- )

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Friday, 29 September 2017

Morning News in the Big Horn Mountains by William Notter

The latest movie star is drunk just out of rehab,
two or three cities had extraordinary killings,
and expensive homes are sliding off the hills
or burning again. There’s an energy crisis on,
and peace in the Middle East is close as ever.
In Wyoming, just below timberline,
meteors and lightning storms
keep us entertained at night. Last week,
a squirrel wrecked the mountain bluebirds’ nest.
I swatted handfuls of moths in the cabin
and set them on a stump each day,
but the birds would not come back to feed.
It snowed last in June, four inches
the day before the solstice. But summer
is winding down—frost on the grass
this morning when we left the ranger station.
Yellow-bellied marmots are burrowing
under the outhouse vault, and ravens leave the ridges
to gorge on Mormon crickets in the meadows.
Flakes of obsidian and red flint
knapped from arrowheads hundreds of years ago
appear in the trails each day,
and the big fish fossil in the limestone cliff
dissolves a little more with every rain.

From: https://newwest.net/topic/article/two_poems_from_holding_everything_down_by_william_notter/C39/L39/

Date: 2009

By: William Notter (19??- )

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Prayer-Jar by Pat Boran

At the bottom of the prayer-jar
was a layer of quiet
so thin it could be missed,
so quiet it might be worn to church.

At the back of the church
you could take, unseen,
the prayer-jar from your pocket,
to collect the sound of people shuffling,

and then go shuffling off back home
through the market visited earlier on,
the clucking of vendors and birds on perches
already somewhere in the belly of the prayer-jar.

From: http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poem/item/15431/auto/0/THE-PRAYER-JAR

Date: 1996

By: Pat Boran (1963- )

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

WalMart Supercenter by Erika Meitner

God Bless America says the bumper sticker on the racer-red
Rascal scooter that accidentally cuts me off in the Walmart parking lot
after a guy in a tricked out jeep with rims like chrome pinwheels tries
to pick me up by honking, all before I make it past the automatic doors
waiting to accept my unwashed hair, my flip-flops, my lounge pants.

The old man on the scooter waves, sports a straw boater banded in blue & white,
and may or may not be the official greeter, but everyone here sure is friendly—
even the faces of plastic bags, which wink yellow and crinkle with kindness,
sound like applause when they brush the legs of shoppers carrying them
to their cars. In Port Charlotte, a woman’s body was found in a Jetta

in a Walmart Parking lot. In a Walmart parking lot in Springfield,
a macaque monkey named Charlie attacked an eight year-old girl.
I am a Walmart shopper, a tract-house dweller—the developments
you can see clearly from every highway in America that’s not jammed up
on farmland or pinned in by mountains. I park my car at a slant in the lot,

hugged tight by my neighbors’ pickups. I drive my enormous cart
through the aisles and fill it with Pampers, tube socks, juice boxes, fruit.
In the parking lot of the McAllen Walmart, a woman tried to sell six
Bengal Tiger cubs to a group of Mexican day laborers. A man carjacked
a woman in the parking lot of the West Mifflin Walmart, then ran

under a bridge and disappeared. Which is to say that the world
we expect to see looks hewn from wood, is maybe two lanes wide,
has readily identifiable produce, and the one we’ve got has jackknifed itself
on the side of the interstate and keeps skidding. The one we’ve got has clouds
traveling so fast across the sky it’s like they’re tied to an electric current.

But electricity is the same for everybody. It comes in the top of your head
and goes out your shoes, which will walk through these automatic doors.
In the Corbin Walmart parking lot a woman with a small amount of cash
was arrested for getting in and out of trucks. A man stepped out of his car
in the Columbus Walmart parking lot, and shot himself. I get in the checkout line

behind a lighted number on a pole. The man in front of me jangles coins
in his pocket, rocks back and forth on his heels. The girl in front of him
carefully peels four moist dimes from her palm to pay for a small container
of honey-mustard dipping sauce. In the parking lot of the LaFayette Walmart,
grandparents left their disabled 2 year-old grandson sitting in a shopping cart

and drove away. Employees in the parking lot at the La Grange Walmart
found a box containing seven abandoned kittens. I am not a Christian or
prone to idioms, but when the cashier says she is grateful for small mercies,
I nod in assent. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison. The Latin root of mercy
means price paid, wages, merchandise, though now we use it as

compassion shown to a person in a position of powerlessness,
and sometimes forgiveness towards a person with no right
to claim it. God is merciful and gracious, but not just.
In the Walmart parking lot in Stockton, a man considered armed
and dangerous attacked his wife, beating her unconscious.

A couple tried to sell their 6-month-old for twenty-five bucks
to buy meth in the Salinas Walmart parking lot. We who are in danger,
remember: mercy has a human heart. Mercy with her tender mitigations,
slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, with her blue employee’s smock
emblazoned with How may I help you? Someone in this place have mercy on us.

From: http://therumpus.net/2011/11/walmart-supercenter-a-rumpus-original-poem-by-erika-meitner/

Date: 2011

By: Erika Meitner (1975- )

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

96 Vandam by Gerald Stern

I am going to carry my bed into New York City tonight
complete with dangling sheets and ripped blankets;
I am going to push it across three dark highways
or coast along under 600,000 faint stars.
I want to have it with me so I don’t have to beg
for too much shelter from my weak and exhausted friends.
I want to be as close as possible to my pillow
in case a dream or a fantasy should pass by.
I want to fall asleep on my own fire escape
and wake up dazed and hungry
to the sound of garbage grinding in the street below
and the smell of coffee cooking in the window above.

From: https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/150.html

Date: 1977

By: Gerald Stern (1925- )

Monday, 25 September 2017

He’d Nothing but His Violin by Mary Kyle Dallas

He’d nothing but his violin,
I’d nothing but my song,
But we were wed when skies were blue
And summer days were long;
And when we rested by the hedge,
The robins came and told
How they had dared to woo and win,
When early Spring was cold.

We sometimes supped on dew-berries,
Or slept among the hay,
But oft the farmers’ wives at eve
Came out to hear us play;
The rare old songs, the dear old tunes,–
We could not starve for long
While my man had his violin,
And I my sweet love-song.

The world has aye gone well with us
Old man since we were one, —
Our homeless wandering down the lanes
It long ago was done.
But those who wait for gold or gear,
For houses or for kine,
Till youth’s sweet spring grows brown and sere,
And love and beauty tine,
Will never know the joy of hearts
That met without a fear,
When you had but your violin
And I a song, my dear.

From: Stevenson, Burton Egbert (ed.), The Home Book of Verse, American and English, 1580-1918. Third Edition, 1918, Henry Holt and Company: New York, pp. 1202-1203.
(https://archive.org/details/homebookofversea00stev)

Date: 18??

By: Mary Kyle Dallas (1830-1897)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ode to Youth by Hannah Brand

Sweet Morn of Life! All hail! Ye hours of ease!
When blooms the cheek with roseate varying dies,
When modest grace exerts each power to please,
And streaming lustre radiates in the eyes.
Thy past hours, innocent; thy present, gay;
Thy future, halcyon Hope depicts without allay.

Day-spring of Life! Oh stay thy fleeting hours!
Thou fairy-reign of ev’ry pleasant thought!
Fancy, to cheer thy path, strews all her flowers,
And in her loom thy plan of years is wrought.
By thee for goodness is each heart carest;
The world, untried, is judg’d by that within thy breast.

Sweet state of Youth! O harmony of Soul!
Now chearful dawns the day; noon brightly beams;
And evening comes serene, nor cares controul;
And night approaches with soft infant dreams.
Circling the morn beholds th’ accustom’d round,
Life’s smiling charities awake, and joys abound.

Season of hope, and peace, and virtues! stay!
And, for my bliss — with inexperience rest!
For what can prudent foresight’s beam display?—
Why — the barbed arrow pointed at my breast!—
Teach to suspect the heart I guileless trust!
And, ere I am betrayed, to think a friend unjust.

Thou candid Age! with ardent Friendship fraught,
That fearless confidence to none denies:
Better sometimes deceiv’d — and artless, taught
By thine own griefs, the wisdom of the wise.
When sad Experience with sorrowing breath,
Sheds, weeping sheds, the pristine roses in Hope’s wreath.

Season belov’d! Ah, doom’d to pass away!
With all thy freshness, all thy flatt’ring joys,
With blooming Beauty’s envied, powerful sway,
With laughing hours the future ne’er annoys.
Ah! be thou spent as Vertue bids thee spend!
Then — though I wish thy stay, no sighs thy reign shall end.

From: http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/TextRecord.php?&action=GET&textsid=38178

Date: 1791

By: Hannah Brand (1754-1821)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Excerpt from “Academia; or The Humours of the University of Oxford” by Alicia Clarke D’Anvers

I intend to give you a Relation,
As prime as any is in the Nation:
The Name of th’ place is—let me see,
Call’d most an end the ‘Versity;
In which same place, as Story tells,
Liv’d once Nine handsome bonny Girls,
Highly in olden Time reputed,
Tho’ now so thawct’d and persecuted;
Schollars belike now can’t abide ‘um,
So that they’re fain to scout and hide ‘um,
Or’s sure as you’re alive they’d beat ‘um;
Out of the place they’d chose to seat ‘um
And they who won’t be seen to maul ‘um,
Revile, bespatter ‘um, or becall ‘um.
E’ne these sly Curs would Strumpets make ‘um,
When e’re they catch ‘um can, or take ‘um,
And pinch ‘um, till they’ve made ‘um sing ye,
The filthy’st stuff as one can bring ye,
The end of all such Rascals wooing,
Proves many a heedless ‘Girle’s undoing:
All these, and twenty more Abuses,
Are daily offer’d to the Muses.
You may perceive, I’me mightily
Disturb’d, they’re us’d so spitefully;
And must confess, where’s no denying,
That I can hardly hold from crying;
But that I mayn’t be seen to bellow,
Like ‘Girl forsaken by a Fellow,
Roar, throw my Snot about, and blubber,
Like School-Boys, or an am’rous Lubber,
I’le lay aside my Bowels yearning,
And talk of Schollars, and their Learning.

From: D’Anvers, Mrs. Alicia, Academia: or, The Humours of the University of Oxford. In Burlesque Verse, 1691, Randal Taylor: London, pp. 1-3.
(http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/danvers/academia/academia.html)

Date: 1691

By: Alicia Clarke D’Anvers (1668-1725)

Friday, 22 September 2017

Madrigal by Chiara Matraini

When first encountering this beautiful sight,
my lord, I am engulfed by an icy flame
that little by little burns and destroys me from within.
Yet so sweet is that fire
that my heart rejoices even as my soul shatters,
and if the one gives it place
the other truly detests the sound.
So I do not understand if I live or die,
while I go on offending myself with pleasure.

From: Matraini, Chiara and Maclachlan, Elaine (ed. and transl.), Selected Poetry and Prose : A Bilingual Edition, 2014, University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, p. 49.

Date: 1555 (original in Italian); 2008 (translation in English)

By: Chiara Matraini (1515-1604)

Translated by: Elaine Maclachlan (19??- )

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lake Water by David Ferry

It is a summer afternoon in October.
I am sitting on a wooden bench, looking out
At the lake through a tall screen of evergreens,
Or rather, looking out across the plane of the lake,
Seeing the light shaking upon the water
As if it were a shimmering of heat.
Yesterday, when I sat here, it was the same,
The same displaced out-of-season effect.
Seen twice it seemed a truth was being told.
Some of the trees I can see across the lake
Have begun to change, but it is as if the air
Had entirely given itself over to summer,
With the intention of denying its own proper nature.
There is a breeze perfectly steady and persistent
Blowing in toward shore from the other side
Or from the world beyond the other side.
The mild sound of the little tapping waves
The breeze has caused—there’s something infantile
About it, a baby at the breast. The light
Is moving and not moving upon the water.
The breeze picks up slightly but still steadily,
The increase in the breeze becomes the mild
Dominant event, compelling with sweet oblivious
Authority alterations in light and shadow,
Alterations in the light of the sun on the water,
Which becomes at once denser and more quietly
Excited, like a concentration of emotions
That had been dispersed and scattered and now were not.
Then there’s the mitigation of the shadow of a cloud,
And the light subsides a little, into itself.
Although this is a lake it is as if
A tide were running mildly into shore.
The sound of the water so softly battering
Against the shore is decidedly sexual,
In its liquidity, its regularity,
Its persistence, its infantile obliviousness.
It is as if it had come back to being
A beginning, an origination of life.
The plane of the water is like a page on which
Phrases and even sentences are written,
But because of the breeze, and the turning of the year,
And the sense that this lake water, as it is being
Experienced on a particular day, comes from
Some source somewhere, beneath, within, itself,
Or from somewhere else, nearby, a spring, a brook,
Its pure origination somewhere else,
It is like an idea for a poem not yet written
And maybe never to be completed, because
The surface of the page is like lake water,
That takes back what is written on its surface,
And all my language about the lake and its
Emotions or its sweet obliviousness,
Or even its being like an origination,
Is all erased with the changing of the breeze
Or because of the heedless passing of a cloud.
When, moments after she died, I looked into
Her face, it was as untelling as something natural,
A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,
Its sources of meaning unfindable anymore.
Her mouth was open as if she had something to say;
But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech.

From: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/07/23/lake-water

Date: 2007

By: David Ferry (1924- )