Friday, July 31, 2009

A Supermarket in California

By Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Thursday, July 30, 2009


By Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow-- the wine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


By William Matthews

"Perhaps you'll tire of me," muses
my love, although she's like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn't tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can't
control is what we could; those drab
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may auger we're on our owns

for good reason. "Hi, honey," chirps Dread
when I come through the door; "you're home."
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it's far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let's cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

Friday, July 24, 2009


By Naomi Shihab Nye

Someone has been painting
across the backs of bus benches
blotting out the advertisements beneath
with green so the the strong silver letters
appear clearly at corners,
in front of taco stands
and hardware stores.

Whoever did this
must have done it in the dark,
clanging paint cans block to block
or a couple of sprays --
they must have really
wanted to do it.

Among the many distasteful graffiti on earth
this line seems somehow honorable.
It wants to help us.
It could belong to anyone,
Latinas, Arabs, Jews,
priests, glue sniffers.
Mostly I wonder about
what happened or didn't happen
in the painter's life
to give her this line.
I don't wonder about the person
who painted HIV under the STOPS
on the stop signs in the same way.


Did some miracle startle
the painter into action
or is she waiting and hoping?

Does she ride the bus with her face
pressed to the window looking
for her own message?

Daily the long wind brushes YES
through the trees.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hail America!

By Stephen Levine

I like America. She's number one.
She loves to work. She loves to play.
She plays to win.

America crushes little nations
like children's toys.
She wears body armor
so she won't get hurt too bad.
She fights for freedom.

America is beautiful.
She has national parks and
fields of grain.
She has lots to eat.

America is the land of opportunity.
She welcomes strangers and
puts them in camps.

She does not mean to harm but
sometimes crushes by accident.
She is clumsy by lovable.

Where would we be without America?
The world would be a much cooler place.
Icebergs would form again and
cover the land.
America guards us from terror.

Hail America!
Thou art a light among the nations.
I salute thee with my missing limbs.
I bow down and kiss thy ring of power.
I want some glory, too.

Bless me, America, for I have sinned.
I have blasphemed thy name,
made mockery of thy goodness.
Surely I am not worthy
to live on thy landand
inhabit thy mansions.
Grant my forgiveness
as only the mighty can.

I promise to be good.
I promise to be loyal.
I promise to join thy crusade against evil
until thy innocence is restored and
thy dignity honored all over the world.

I promise whatever thou shalt demand and
in in return I ask only that thee
turn off the light in my cell,
stop playing the Eagles all night
so I can't sleep,
put away the snarling dogs,
release me from my prison before I die,
let my children go,
destroy all corporate wealth,
burn down thy towers where
prisoners are being watched,
turn thy weapons into plowshares and
distribute them widely,
stop worshipping Moloch,
become weak and vulnerable again,
acknowledging the mortality,
give the Indians back their
land and their names,
set free the slaves and
the descendants of the slaves ,
make a more perfect union of
justice and peace.




For truly thy time has come

Truly thy time has come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


By Raymond Carver

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Do, I Will, I Have

By Ogden Nash

How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a woman who can't with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all right, it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particulary if he has income and she is pattable.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Traveler's Prayer

May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our ancestors, to lead us toward peace, to direct our steps toward peace, and guide us toward peace and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May you rescue us from every foe, ambush, bandits, and evil animals along the way and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May you send blessing in our every handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May you hear the sound of our supplication, because you are G-d Who hears prayer and supplication. Blessed are you Hashem, Who hears prayer.

Jacob went on his way, and angels of G-d encountered him. Jacob said when he saw them, “This is a G-dly camp” So he named the place Machanayim.

For your salvation I do long Hashem. I do long Hashem for you salvation. Hashem, for your salvation I do long.

Behold, I send an angel before you to protect you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

Hashem will give might to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation with peace.

(Translated from the traditional Hebrew prayer)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walking Down Blanco Road at Midnight

By Naomi Shihab Nye

There is a folding into the self which occurs
when the lights are small on the horizon
and no light is shining into the face.

It happens in a quiet place.
It is a quiet unfolding,
like going to sleep in
the comfortable family home.
When everyone else goes to sleep
the house folds up
The windows shut their eyes.
If you are inside you are automatically folded.
If you are outside walking by the folded house
you feel so lonesome you think you are going crazy.

You are not going crazy.
You are beginning to fold up in your own single way.
You feel your edges move toward center,
your heart like a folded blanket unfolding
and folding in with everything contained.
You feel like you do not need anyone to love you anymore
because you already feel everything.
you feel it, you fold it, and for awhile now,
it will quietly rest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sorry Doesn't Butter the Biscuit, Sorry Doesn't Walk the Dog

By Adam Stone

Wyatt has got scratches on his corneas
From all the men who got lost in his eyes
And died trying to claw their way out

The day we broke up
He told me there would always be a special place for me in his heart

I had been hoping for something a little more spacious
With a little less black

Elvis was my twenty-first birthday present
Boyfriend so out he had a windchill factor
Eighteen year old student of Baron Munchausen
Majoring in revisionist history
A parasitic Pinocchio
Every time I caught him in a lie
His dick looked bigger

He seduced me with broken home stories
His mother, the cancer that closed his father's throat
A wicked stepfather with a taste for Elvis's forbidden fruit
I was the prince with the glass wallet
That fit perfectly in his pocket

I spent two years and forty-two lovers
Expunging him from my credit report

Sam wouldn't touch me with the lights on
Jason kissed me like I was the exhaust pipe on an idling car
Russell told me
That I was the most beautiful imaginary friend
That he had ever locked in his closet

I never felt so ugly

Mark was the first lover who made me feel beautiful
He told me I weighed so heavily on his mind
He couldn't sleep anymore

I started buying groceries in bulk
Seasoned my steaks with weight gain powders

I would watch him flipping through my old photo albums
Caressing my twenty-four year old cheek
Smirking at my seventeen year old sideburns
His love was better for my posture than milk

Yet I saw every smile not flashed in my direction as an act of treason
Counted seconds during handshakes and hugs
Soon our late night phone conversations grew so tense
Fibre optics grew brittle
Cracked under the weight of our words

Wyatt developed a passion for pesticide ingestion
He skipped town to follow Phish

Elvis got lost in someone else's enchanted forest

I never heard from Sam again

Jason carved cuneiform across his arteries
Dabbed bleach behind one ear
Ammonia behind the other
The darling of the gay goth scene

Russell and his wife lived blissfully ignorant ever after

I'm sorry I used the cement in our relationship
To build a bombshelter strong enough to survive our past
Instead of laying a foundation for our future

I'm not sure at which page in the photo album
I lost my ability to see the present for what it's worth

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Wedding Vow

By Sharon Olds

I did not stand at the altar, I stood
at the foot of the chancel steps, with my beloved,
and the minister stood on the top step
holding the open Bible. The church
was wood, painted ivory inside, no people—God’s
stable perfectly cleaned. It was night,
spring—outside, a moat of mud,
and inside, from the rafters, flies
fell onto the open Bible, and the minister
tilted it and brushed them off. We stood
beside each other, crying slightly
with fear and awe. In truth, we had married
that first night, in bed, we had been
married by our bodies, but now we stood
in history—what our bodies had said,
mouth to mouth, we now said publicly,
gathered together, death. We stood
holding each other by the hand, yet I also
stood as if alone, for a moment,
just before the vow, though taken
years before, took. It was a vow
of the present and the future, and yet I felt it
to have some touch on the distant past
or the distant past on it, I felt
the wordless, dry, crying ghost of my
parents’ marriage there, somewhere
in the echoing space—perhaps one of the
plummeting flies, bouncing slightly
as it hit forsaking all others, then was brushed
away. I felt as if I had come
to claim a promise—the sweetness I’d inferred
from their sourness, and at the same time that I
had come, congenitally unworthy, to beg.
And yet, I had been working toward this hour
all my life. And then it was time
to speak—he was offering me, no matter
what, his life. That is all I had to
do, that evening, to accept the gift
I had longed for—to say I had accepted it,
as if being asked if I breathe. Do I take?
I do. I take as he takes—we have been
practicing this. Do you bear this pleasure? I do.

Monday, July 13, 2009


By Anne Sexton

I was wrapped in black
fur and white fur and
you undid me and then
you placed me in gold light
and then you crowned me,
while snow fell outside
the door in diagonal darts.
While a ten-inch snow
came down like stars
in small calcium fragments,
we were in our own bodies
(that room that will bury us)
and you were in my body
(that room that will outlive us)
and at first I rubbed your
feet dry with a towel
because I was your slave
and then you called me princess.
Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o’clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested

Sunday, July 12, 2009


By Antler

Whitman was a boysexual, a girlsexual,
a womansexual, a mansexual

A grasssexual, a treesexual,
a skysexual, an earthsexual,

Whitman was an oceansexual, a mountainsexual,
a cloudsexual, a prairiesexual,

A birdsongsexual, a lilacsmellsexual,
a gallopinghorsesexual.

Whitman was a darknesssexual, a sleepersexual,
a sunrisesexual, a Milky Way-sexual,

A gentlebreezesexual, an openroadsexual,
a wildernesssexual, a democracysexual,

A drumtapsexual, a crossingbrooklynferrysexual,
a sands-at-seventysexual.

Whitman was a farewell-my-fancysexual,
a luckier-than-was-thoughtsexual,

A deathsexual, a corpsewatchsexual,
a compostsexual, a poets-to-comesexual,

A miracle-sexual, an immortalitysexual,
a cosmossexual, a waiting-for-you-sexual.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Chair She Sits In

By Alberto Ríos

I've heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house—

The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.

It's so the soul won't be confused, or tempted.
It's so when the soul comes out of the body it's been in

But that doesn't work anymore,
I won't simply go into another one

And try to make itself at home,
Pretending as if nothing happened.

There's no mystery—it's too much work to move on.
It isn't anybody's fault. A soul is like any of us.

It gets used to things, especially after a long life.
The way I sit in my living-room chair,

The indentation I have put in it now
After so many years—that's how I understand.

It's my chair,
And I know how to sit in it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wild Geese

By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Brief Life of a Box

By David Tucker

A long time ago a box
lay in a trash heap behind a blue jeans factory
in Linden, Tennessee. It was nothing to anyone,
just an ordinary, useless occupant of the light,
a bland statement: "Union Manufacturing" stenciled in bold,
black letters on its side like an urge
to be important. Then one day
a man in a green pick up noticed the box,
stopped and threw it on the truck bed,
took it away. That afternoon
he filled it with leaves from the hill
behind his house, hauling load after load until nightfall.
The next week he burned the box in a garden
where he had been burning leaves and junk
for years. His son, always looking around
for signs like this, saw the fire
and thought of Abraham and sacrifices
as the box obediently became smoke
and ashes. The man sprinkled the ashes
on a tomato bed and the tomatoes were eaten
in August. Eventually they said a few words in a prayer
that sounded like "Oh help us dear Lord."
It was a summer for strange events like that.
The boy’s mother was in the asylum, hearing voices.
Boxes became heroes, tomatoes made you pray.
It seemed she would never come back.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

You Worry Too Much

By Rumi

Oh soul,
you worry too much.
You say,
I make you feel dizzy.
Of a little headache then,
why do you worry?
You say, I am your moon-faced beauty.
Of the cycles of the moon and
passing of the years,
why do you worry?
You say, I am your source of passion,
I excite you.
Of playing into the Devils hand,
why do you worry?

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

Look at yourself,
what you have become.
You are now a field of sugar canes,
why show that sour face to me?
You say that I keep you warm inside.
Then why this cold sigh?
You have gone to the roof of heavens.
Of this world of dust, why do you worry?

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

Your arms are heavy
with treasures of all kinds.
About poverty,
why do you worry?
You are Joseph,
beautiful, strong,
steadfast in your belief,
all of Egypt has become drunk
because of you.
Of those who are blind to your beauty,
and deaf to your songs,
why do you worry?

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.
You are the security,
the shelter of the spirit of Lovers.
Oh the sultan of sultans,
of any other king,
why do you worry?

Be silent, like a fish,
and go into that pleasant sea.
You are in deep waters now,
of life's blazing fire.
Why do you worry?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Getting Here

By William Stafford

“Utah restores your soul.” Window
was talking. Aisle leaned over to see:
“Therapeutic all the way.”
It was easy to know –
they were talking to Middle, me.

Window fixed on my eyes:
“Did your parents love you?”
“Did my parents love me – me?
They didn’t beat me, though,
and maybe that passes for love.”

Aisle was not amused:
“You need the Moab country.”
And Window quickly agreed:
“When air comes by at dawn you can
smell that Indian medicine –
it’s Utah air you need.”

Then Aisle nodded across
and both of them looked at me.
Did my parents love me? Me?
If you’re in the Middle, you know,
all you can see is wing –

Well, maybe a piece of sky
While the miles of therapy pass
And you crane to look now and then.
But then if you’re in Utah
maybe that’s all you need.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Birthday Party

For Laura Kaplan Levin, 1946-1980

By Bonnie Lyons

When you open the door and turn on the light
all of us, friends and far-flung family
scream "Surprise! Happy birthday!"
and we eat and crack corny jokes
about your being over the hill at fifty.
You've recently decided to go gray
and there are tiny wrinkles at the corners of your
The usual parts are beginning to sag
but mostly you look radiant.

That's how it should be
that's how I will it to be,
but no. On your fiftieth birthday
you have been gone sixteen years.
Your children approach your age.
Dead at thirty-three like Jesus;
a meaningless coincidence for a nice Jewish girl.
You'd hardly recognize me now, Laura.
All the wrinkles and gray saggy parts
I gave you - like the chicken pox -
they're all mine, of course.

Little sister,
I wanted to take the bullet for you
to be a wall, a moat, around you.
I never dreamed the enemy would grow inside you,
that someday I'd be old enough to be your mother,
that you could slip through my fingers like water.
Forever young, forever dead.
Absent presence, present absence.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Golden Retrievals

By Mark Doty

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don't think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who's -- oh
joy -- actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I'm off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you're sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you can never bring back,

or else you're off in some fog concerning
-- tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time's warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,

a Zen master's bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pull A String, A Puppet Moves

By Charles Bukowski

each man must realize
that it can all disappear very
the cat, the woman, the job,
the front tire,
the bed, the walls, the
room; all our necessities
including love,
rest on foundations of sand -
and any given cause,
no matter how unrelated:
the death of a boy in Hong Kong
or a blizzard in Omaha ...
can serve as your undoing.
all your chinaware crashing to the
kitchen floor, your girl will enter
and you'll be standing, drunk,
in the center of it and she'll ask:
my god, what's the matter?
and you'll answer: I don't know,
I don't know ...