Posts tagged ‘poetry’

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Giving Poetry Readings by Donna Brook

I don’t want to say, “This is called . . .”
when I’m the one who called it this.

I don’t want to explain a poem to people.
I want them to explain it to me.

I don’t want to pull rabbits out of top hats.
But I’d love to hold a rabbit by its silky ears
and pull a hat out of its bottom,
popping the hat open as if I were Fred Astaire
without getting rabbit shit on anyone.

And this little number
which I extracted from the asshole
of a timid but multiplying woodland creature
is from the heart, dedicated to you
and yours,
and theirs.

I don’t want to commit egotism under the guise of art.
How about art under duress
and over the top;
how about that
and then this
and then what you’ve always wanted
in the way of magical and communal and possessed?

From: Brook, Donna, “Giving Poetry Readings.” Ploughshares, vol. 26, no. 4, 2000, p. 42.

Date: 2000

By: Donna Brook (1944- )

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Sentimental Moment Or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road? by Robert Hershon

Don’t fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn’t know
is that when we’re walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand.


Date: 2000

By: Robert Hershon (1936- )

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Excerpt from “Deaths Progress: or Death with His Commission” by Elizabeth Major

In that catalogue of times descry,
A time for birth, also a time to die;
But finde no time to live, which may us teach,
Uncertainty no certain time can reach:
Death’s suddain presence, and his sabled brow,
Doth summon all even to be ready now;
For do but listen, some passing bell doth toll,
And sadly too, for some departed soul.
Perhaps some wife’s a widow, children orphans be,
And this sad sound proclaims the same to thee:
Perchance another’s posting in that way,
And hasty death denys it here to stay
His dearest friends to see: his doom he’l give,
Behold, I am come, thou must no longer live:
Perhaps he takes one midst abused wealth,
Whole covetous heart he hath depriv’d of health,
And them will part: But stay grim death, let’s see
If a large bribe won’t gain some time of thee;
See, here is store, come lade thee with thick clay,
Take what thou wilt, so longer I may stay:
We sooner part from all then life, I know
No other Heaven then what I have below:
This golden element my heart hath won,
If hence thou tak’t me, alas I am undone.

Death Was death ere brib’d, did ever mortal see
Death sent to fell, and yet did spare the tree?
When once commision from the most High is come,
How do I post till his command is done?
No glistering bribe upon me ever wrought,
Nor is my black bark with such light wares fraught:
O no, to wound and kill, believ’t, I am come,
And I’le not leave thee till within thy tomb;
Therefore prepare, I shoot, my black darts flie,
They’l surely wound, the wounded surely die.

From: Major, Elizabeth, Honey on the Rod: Or A Comfortable Contemplation for One in Affliction; with Sundry Poems on Several Subjects, 1656, Thomas Maxey: London, pp. 202-203.

Dated: 1656

By: Elizabeth Major (fl. 1656)

Monday, 14 October 2019

Life and Limb by Hannah Stephenson

This is a song for the body that crumbles,
that does not fear its own enfeebling.

In one life you had a great ass.
There are bones beneath it.

This is a song for the mostly-obedient
body. The shaking foot that lifts.

Children guard other children walking
to school. Oh, beautiful crossing guards,

this is a song for the orange vests flapping
against your small bodies, uninflated

life jackets, for the stop signs you hold up
like torches as you wade into the street.

This is a song for the body protected,
the body desired, the body melting away.


Date: 2015

By: Hannah Stephenson (19??- )

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Sound and Fury by Claudia Rankine

Dispossessed despair, depression, despondent
dejection, the doom is the off-white of white. But wait,
white can’t know what white feels. Where’s the life in that?
Where’s the right in that? Where’s the white in that?

At the bone of bone white breathes the fear of seeing,
the frustration of being unequal to white. White-male portraits
on white walls were intended to mean ownership of all,
the privilege of all, even as white walls white in.

And this is understandable, yes,
understandable because the culture claims white
owns everything—the wealth
of no one anyone knows. Still the equation holds—
jobs and health and schools and better than
before and different from now and enough
and always and eventually mine.

This is what it means to wear a color and believe
the embrace of its touch. What white long expected
was to work its way into an upwardly mobile fit.
In the old days white included a life, even without luck
or chance of birth. The scaffolding had rungs
and legacy and the myth of meritocracy fixed in white.

Now white can’t hold itself distant from the day’s touch—
even as the touch holds so little white would own—
foreclosure vanished pensions school systems
in disrepair free trade rising unemployment unpaid
medical bills school debt car debt debt debt.

White is living its brick-and-mortar loss,
staving off more loss, exhaustion, aggrieved
exposure, a pale heart even as in daylight
white hardens its features. Eyes, which hold all
the light, harden. Jaws, which close down on nothing,
harden. Hands, which assembled, and packaged,
and built, harden into a fury that cannot call

power to account though it’s not untrue jobs were
outsourced and it’s not untrue an economic base
was cut out from under. It’s not untrue.

If people could just come clean about their pain,
the being at a loss when just being white
is not working. Who said there is no hierarchy
inside white walls? Who implied white owns
everything even as it owns nothing? But white
can’t strike its own structure. White can’t oust
its own system. All the loss is nothing
next to any other who can be thrown out.
In daylight this right to righteous rage doubles
down the supremacy of white in this way.


Date: 2016

By: Claudia Rankine (1963- )

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Letter to My Sister by Anne Bethel Scales Bannister Spencer

It is dangerous for a woman
to defy the gods;
To taunt them with the tongue’s thin tip,
Or strut in the weakness
of mere humanity,
Or draw a line daring them to cross;
The gods own the searing lightning,
The drowning waters, tormenting fears
And anger of red sins.

Oh, but worse still if you mince timidly–
Dodge this way or that, or kneel or pray,
Be kind, or sweat agony drops
Or lay your quick body over
your feeble young;
If you have beauty or none, if celibate
Or vowed–the gods are Juggernaut,
Passing over       over

This you may do:
Lock your heart, then, quietly,
And lest they peer within,
Light no lamp when dark comes down
Raise no shade for sun;
Breathless must your
breath come through
If you’d die and dare deny
The gods their god-like fun.


Date: 1927

By: Anne Bethel Scales Bannister Spencer (1882-1975)

Friday, 11 October 2019

Home Thoughts from the Red Planet by Frances-Anne King

It was considered weakness to look back
so they didn’t speak of it, but images
spored inside their heads and spread
across their dreams at night. Some stashed
files, chose rare fonts – as if to keep the past
alive more vividly. Some wrote of trees;
oak, aspen, cypress, silver birch, pelts
of balsam fir across a mountain range,
the shape and texture of a leaf, the vibrancy
or calm of some particular shade of green.

A man described a wheat field ripening under sun,
the weight and sea-sway of wind-pulled crops.
A woman, haunted by cycles of return, explained
the pattern play of swallows in an autumn sky;
how they forage on the wing, the skim and swoop
of cobalt feathers across the surface of a lake.
Another recorded the last bee she’d seen, a red carder,
and sketched it in the margins of each page.
Through all their notes the memory of blue
in all its myriad shades, repeated and repeated.


Date: 2018

By: Frances-Anne King (19??- )

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Under Mr. Hales Picture by Anne King

Though by a Sodaine and unfeard surprise,
thou lately taken wast from thy friends eies:
Even in that instant, when they had design’d
to keipe thee, by thy picture still in minde:
least thou like others lost in deths dark night
shouldst stealing hence vanish quite out of sight;
I did content with greater zeale then Art,
This shadow of my phancie to impart:
which all shood pardon, when they understand
the lines were figur’d by a womans hand,
who had noe copy to be guided by
but Hales imprinted on her memory.
Thus ill cut Brasses serve upon a grave,
Which less resemblance of the persons have.

From: Post, Jonathan F. S. (ed.), English Lyric Poetry: The Early Seventeenth Century, 1999, Routledge: London and New York, p. 251.

Date: c1650

By: Anne King (1621-?1701)

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

I Am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

I love you.


Date: 1990

By: Jimmy Santiago Baca (1952- )

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Everywhere the Desert Met the Wind by Stuart Dischell

Out west we lived in a view.
We could see forever was not far
Enough. The dinosaurs
Had walked across our valley.
You could see their footprints
Stuck in the mud.
Our volcano was extinct also.
Our mountains treeless.
Our slow-moving river sometimes dry.
(One evening we snuck out on the golf course
Near the rental house and I played the pennywhistle
And you and our daughter did a mouse dance
And a jack rabbit watched from behind a cactus
Where he thought we could not see him.)


Date: 2007

By: Stuart Dischell (1954- )