Monday, August 30, 2010

A Poem for the Cruel Majority

By Jerome Rothenberg

The cruel majority emerges!

Hail to the cruel majority!

They will punish the poor for being poor.
They will punish the dead for having died.

Nothing can make the dark turn into light
for the cruel majority.
Nothing can make them feel hunger or terror.

If the cruel majority would only cup their ears
the sea would wash over them.
The sea would help them forget their wayward children.
It would weave a lullaby for young & old.

(See the cruel majority with hands cupped to their ears,
one foot is in the water, one foot is on the clouds.)

One man of them is large enough to hold a cloud
between his thumb & middle finger,
to squeeze a drop of sweat from it before he sleeps.

He is a little god but not a poet.
(See how his body heaves.)

The cruel majority love crowds & picnics.
The cruel majority fill up their parks with little flags.
The cruel majority celebrate their birthday.

Hail to the cruel majority again!

The cruel majority weep for their unborn children,
they weep for the children that they will never bear.
The cruel majority are overwhelmed by sorrow.

(Then why are the cruel majority always laughing?
Is it because night has covered up the city's walls?
Because the poor lie hidden in the darkness?
The maimed no longer come to show their wounds?)

Today the cruel majority vote to enlarge the darkness.

They vote for shadows to take the place of ponds
Whatever they vote for they can bring to pass.
The mountains skip like lambs for the cruel majority.

Hail to the cruel majority!
Hail! hail! to the cruel majority!

The mountains skip like lambs, the hills like rams.
The cruel majority tear up the earth for the cruel majority.
Then the cruel majority line up to be buried.

Those who love death will love the cruel majority.

Those who know themselves will know the fear
the cruel majority feel when they look in the mirror.

The cruel majority order the poor to stay poor.
They order the sun to shine only on weekdays.

The god of the cruel majority is hanging from a tree.
Their god's voice is the tree screaming as it bends.
The tree's voice is as quick as lightning as it streaks across the sky.

(If the cruel majority go to sleep inside their shadows,
they will wake to find their beds filled up with glass.)

Hail to the god of the cruel majority!
Hail to the eyes in the head of their screaming god!

Hail to his face in the mirror!

Hail to their faces as they float around him!

Hail to their blood & to his!

Hail to the blood of the poor they need to feed them!
Hail to their world & their god!

Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Have You Prayed

By Li-Young Lee

When the wind
turns and asks, in my father’s voice,
Have you prayed?

I know three things. One:
I’m never finished answering to the dead.

Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his father’s voice,
his mother’s voice . . .

Or maybe he’s seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
dreaming, thinking . . .
Or is he the breath of God?

When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my father’s voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things.
One: A father’s love

is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and what’s left over

is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.

And patience? That’s to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.

And wisdom? That’s my father’s face in sleep.

When the wind
asks, Have you prayed?
I know it’s only me

reminding myself
a flower is one station between
earth’s wish and earth’s rapture, and blood

was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. It’s just me

in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?

Strange. A troubled father. A happy son.
The wind with a voice. And me talking to no one.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

This Land Is Your Land

By Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

But instead has gone into woods

By Lyn Lifshin

A girl goes into the woods
and for what reason
disappears behind branches
and is never heard from again.
We don’t really know why,
she could have gone shopping
or had lunch with her mother
but instead has gone into
woods, alone, without the lover,
and not for leaves or flowers.
It was a clear bright day
very much like today.
It was today. Now you might
imagine I’m that girl,
it seems there are reasons. But
first consider: I don’t live
very near those trees and my
head is already wild with branches

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where I Live

is vertical:
garden, pond, uphill

pasture, run-in shed.
Through pines, Pumpkin Ridge.

Two switchbacks down
church spire, spit of town.

Where I climb I inspect
the peas, cadets erect

in lime-capped rows,
hear hammer blows

as pileateds peck
the rot of shagbark hickories

enlarging last
year's pterodactyl nests.

Granite erratics
humped like bears

dot the outermost pasture
where in tall grass

clots of ovoid scat
butternut-size, milky brown

announce our halfgrown
moose padded past

into the forest
to nibble beech tree sprouts.

Wake-robin trillium
in dapple-shade. Violets,

landlocked seas I swim in.
I used to pick bouquets

for her, framed them
with leaves. Schmutzige

she said, holding me close
to scrub my streaky face.

Almost from here I touch
my mother's death.

By Maxine Kumin

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bourbon and the Biker Babe

By Dave Malone

You bike ride
as the Harleys ride.
Fast, dangerous, close.

No gears but high.
No throttle but full.
Rest is not a stop,
but death. We bike
slick across railroad tracks

tumbling

into the street,
both of us headfirst
like old-school slides
into second base. Wrapping our arms
around iron and railroad spike.

You are up first,
not a scratch,
your skin as smooth as Ozark rock
rivered down from centuries
of May rain and creekbed fury.

I’m slower. Nose scuffed, head light,
as if I’m in a tiny room close to you.
Towering over train track,
I’m up and your voice wakes
my ear to the drizzle,
low-rider traffic and cardinal reprise.

At home I clean my wounds
until the friendly poison sings.
I pour bourbon straight
searching for the keys
to the smallest room I might know.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sarah Cynthia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out

By Shel Silverstein

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She'd scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
"OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sonnet Substantially Like the Words of F Rodriguez One Position Ahead of Me on the Unemployment Line

By Jack Agüeros

It happens to me all the time--business
Goes up and down but I'm the yo-yo spun
Into the high speed trick called sleeping
Such as I am fast standing in this line now.

Maybe I am also a top; they too sleep
While standing, tightly twirling in place.
I wish I could step out and listen for
The sort of music that I must make.

But this is where the state celebrates its sport.
From cushioned chairs the agents turn your ample
Time against you through a box of lines.
Your string is both your leash and lash.

The faster you spin, the stiller you look.
There's something to learn in that, but what?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Untitled

By Macrina Wiederkehr

I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
hope
and baking powder are:
quietly
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
awakening
the hint of eternity
within.

I always think of that
when I eat biscuits now
and wish
that I could be
more faithful
to the hint of eternity,
the baking powder
in me.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Finding A Long Gray Hair

By Jane Kenyon

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Anger

By Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

Give up anger; renounce pride;
transcend all worldly attachments.
No sufferings touch the person
who is not attached to name and form,
who calls nothing one's own.
Whoever restrains rising anger like a chariot gone astray,
that one I call a real driver;
others merely hold the reins.

Overcome anger by love; overcome wrong by good;
overcome the miserly by generosity, and the liar by truth.
Speak the truth; do not yield to anger;
give even if asked for a little.
These three steps lead you to the gods.

The wise who hurt no one, who always control their body,
go to the unchangeable place,
where, once they have gone, they suffer no more.
Those who are always aware, who study day and night,
who aspire for nirvana, their passions will come to an end.

This is an old saying, Atula, not just from today:
"They blame the person who is silent;
they blame the person who talks much;
they also blame the person who talks in moderation;
there is no one on earth who is not blamed."
There never was, nor ever will be, nor is there now
anyone who is always blamed or anyone who is always praised.

But the one whom those who discriminate praise
continually day after day as without fault,
wise, rich in knowledge and virtue,
who would dare to blame that person,
who is like a gold coin from the Jambu river?
That one is praised even by the gods, even by Brahma.

Be aware of bodily anger and control your body.
Let go of the body's wrongs
and practice virtue with your body.

Be aware of the tongue's anger and control your tongue.
Let go of the tongue's wrongs
and practice virtue with your tongue.

Be aware of the mind's anger and control your mind.
Let go of the mind's wrongs
and practice virtue with your mind.

The wise who control their body,
who control their tongue,
the wise who control their mind are truly well controlled.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tonight I can write the saddest lines

By Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

Translated by W.S. Merwin

Puedo Escribir los Versos mas Tristes Esta Noche

Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche.
Escribir, por ejemplo: "La noche esta estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos".

El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.
Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella tambien me quiso.

En las noches como esta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La bese tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Ella me quiso, a veces yo tambien la queria.
Como no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche inmensa, mas inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocio.

Que importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche esta estrellada y ella no esta conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazon la busca, y ella no esta conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos arboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuanto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oido.

De otro. Sera de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como esta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque este sea el ultimo dolor que ella me causa,
y estos sean los ultimos versos que yo le escribo.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dependants

By Paul Farley

How good we are for each other, walking through
a land of silence and darkness. You
open doors for me, I answer the phone for you.

I play jungle loud. You read with the light on.
Beautiful. The curve of your cheekbone,
explosive vowels, exact use of cologne.

What are you thinking? I ask in a language of touch
unique to us. You tap my palm nothing much.
At stations we compete senses, see which

comes first—light in the tunnel, whiplash down the rail.
I kick your shins when we go out for meals.
You dab my lips. I finger yours like Braille.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Account

By Czeslaw Milosz

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own—but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Optimism

By Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Rules

By Shel Silverstein

If you want to marry me, here’s what you’ll have to do:
You must learn how to make a perfect chicken-dumpling stew.
And you must sew my holey socks,
And soothe my troubled mind,
And develop a knack for scratching my back,
And keep my shoes spotlessly shined.
And while I rest you must rake up the leaves,
And when it is hailing and snowing
You must shovel the walk… and be still when I talk,
And—hey—where are you going?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Be Alone

By Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were you were not okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find its fine to be alone once you’re embracing it. We can start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library, where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books, your not suppose to talk much anyway so its safe there. There is also the gym, if your shy, you can hang out with yourself and mirrors, you can put headphones in. There’s public transportation, we all gotta go places. And there’s prayer and mediation, no one will think less if your hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation. Start simple. Things you may have previously avoided based on avoid being principles. The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by “chow downers”, employees who only have an hour and their spouse work across town, and they, like you, will be alone. Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone. When you are comfortable with “eat lunch and run”, take yourself out to dinner to a restaurant with linen and silver wear. You’re no less an intriguing a person when you are eating solo dessert and cleaning the whip cream from the dish with your finger. In fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were. Go to the movies. Where it’s dark and soothing, alone in your seat amidst fleeting community. And then take yourself out dancing, to a club where no one knows you, stand on the outside of the floor until the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no ones watching because they are probably not. And if they are, assume it is with best human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely move to beats, after-all, is gorgeous and affecting. Dance till you’re sweating. And beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things. Down your back, like a book of blessings. Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you. Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, they are always statues to talk to, and benches made for sitting gives strangers a shared existence if only for a minute, these moments can be so uplifting and the conversation you get in by sitting alone on benches, might of never happened had you not been there by yourself.

See a beautiful video made of this poem.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Growing Up

By Karen Estrella

Growing up

in our cozy home
things still
appear
grow
change

not plants
but people
and ideas
and convictions

learning geometry proofs
and world capitals
also
how to
read the map of each others’ hearts

we learn scales
and f-stops
remembering the map
is not the same as the terrain

remembering that now
is not then

On the horizon
empty nests appear to take shape

Vision becomes blurred
and sharpened

as some reach forward
while others reach back

as love binds what time steals

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

this kind of fire

By Charles Bukowski

sometimes I think the gods
deliberately keep pushing me
into the fire
just to hear me
yelp
a few good
lines.

they just aren't going to
let me retire
silk scarf about neck
giving lectures at
Yale.

the gods need me to
entertain them.

they must be terribly
bored with all
the others

and I am too.

and now my cigarette lighter
has gone dry.
I sit here
hopelessly
flicking it.

this kind of fire
they can't give
me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

August

By Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.