Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gathering Leaves

By Robert Frost 

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

Friday, September 28, 2012

In the Next Galaxy

By Ruth Stone

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What we need

By Elaine Starkman

We women need poems –
Leaping lines to store
For cold winter nights
When our tongues crave juice;
Mirrors to the inside of our heads
When we cannot find our own reflections;
Fancies that keep us
From meaningless work.
Depressions, holidays, lovers,
Prayers, friends
Won’t do the trick alone;
The emptiness only snaps back.
But immersing minds,
Losing our bodies
Letting our poems
Take on an enormity,
Fill us with delicious
Worth that feeds our hunger.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I'm Looking For

By Maureen N. McLane

What I'm looking for
is an unmarked door
we'll walk through
and there: whatever
we'd wished for
beyond the door.

What I'm looking for
is a golden bowl
carefully repaired
a complete world sealed
along cracked lines.

What I'm looking for
may not be there.
What you're looking for
may or may not
be me. I'm listening for

the return of that sound
I heard in the woods
just now, that silvery sound
that seemed to call
not only to me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

into the strenuous briefness

By e. e. cummings

into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April
darkness, friends

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight 

i smilingly glide. I
into the big vermilion departure
swim, sayingly;

(Do you think?) the
i do, world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and, ashes)

Friday, September 21, 2012

won't you celebrate with me

By Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Automatic Teller Machine

By Ben Mirov

If you work at a steady rate
you may reach the river by nightfall
and if you have the will

a canoe will be waiting
by the ash factory
for you to take upstream

to the takoyaki shack
where you can eat delicious food
and drink as much beer as you like

until late into the night.
In other words you have
your whole life ahead of you

and no one can tell you
what to do or how to act
or what to say or anything

said the machine in the wall
before dispensing my receipt
in a tiny wadded ball.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prayer for Tashlich

By Rachel Barenblat

Here I am again
ready to let go of my mistakes.

Help me to release myself
from all the ways I've missed the mark.

Help me to stop carrying
the karmic baggage of my poor choices.

As I cast this bread upon the waters
Lift my troubles off my shoulders.

Help me to know that last year is over,
washed away like crumbs in the current.

Open my heart to blessing and gratitude
Renew my soul as the dew renews the grasses.

And we say together:

Monday, September 17, 2012

From a Survivor

By Adrienne Rich

The pact that we made was the ordinary pact
of men & women in those days

I don’t know who we thought we were
that our personalities
could resist the failures of the race

Lucky or unlucky, we didn’t know
the race had failures of that order
and that we were going to share them

Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special

Your body is as vivid to me
as it ever was: even more

since my feeling for it is clearer:
I know what it could and could not do

it is no longer
the body of a god
or anything with power over my life

Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have made the leap
we talked, too late, of making

which I live now
not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing movements

each one making possible the next

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Page 65 / Riding the subway is an adventure

By Frances Chung

Riding the subway is an adventure
especially if you cannot read the signs.
One gets lost. One becomes anxious and
does not know whether to get off when
the other Chinese person in your car
does. (Your crazy logic tells you that
the both of you must be headed for the
same stop.) One woman has discovered the
secret of one-to-one correspondence.
She keeps the right amount of pennies
in one pocket and upon arriving in each
new station along the way she shifts one
penny to her other pocket. When all the
pennies in the first pocket have disappeared,
she knows that she is home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


By Rabbi Alvin Fine

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness –
And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding –
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat –
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage –
To life everlasting.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dispatch from the Home Front: Halloween 2001

By Tony Brown

like every other year I sit outside with a guitar
while kids roam in small packs
from lit door to lit door

the costumes tonight are not that frightening

angels and fairies and superheroes abound
a few bloodsuckers and ghouls
a sprinkling of skeletons
no terrorists

the adults pretend to be scared

jessie (the giraffe from across the street)
solemnly hands me M & Ms from her stash
when I put the Snickers in her pumpkin
“honey,” I tell her
“it’s not a trade – it‘s a gift”
and she solemnly takes them back

the young girl in the bathrobe and curlers
wearing the sign that says
says to me
“I want to hear you play your prettyful music”

I hand her candy
and I pick up my guitar
to play a song appropriate to the season
(a song by the Grateful Dead)
for this world’s recent ghosts

this world
where unimaginable ashes
sift down on children’s beds

in one part of this world
the very rocks and baseballs
smell of abrasives, jet fuel, burning rubber, corpses

in another part of this world
they are making the mail glow white
long enough to kill what lives on the words

in another part of this world
this guitar would be

in that country a shrouded woman
has been carefully picking food from a minefield
(food that was airdropped in my name)

she runs and lifts her child from the ground
raising his head high up onto her shoulder
vainly trying to keep the frightening blood from spilling too much

it will take her years to fall asleep again

when she does fall asleep
she will dream of picking up a yellow bomblet
wrapping it in swaddling clothes
suckling it until it blooms hot and bright

but she will not cry
as she holds him in that dream

we all dream that dream these days
we all hold our children closer
while holding back tears

a dream like that
is not a gift
it is a trade
we have all already given
more than enough in return for this one
and you do not let go of your tears
when tears are all you have left

Halloween night
I am pushing aside the veil between the worlds
a mourning person waiting for dawn
pretending to be scared to cover real fear
while I give sweets and prettyful music
to my neighbors’children

we are all a long way from home

if I knew the way
I would take you home

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wife’s Disaster Manual

By Deborah Paradez

When the forsaken city starts to burn,
after the men and children have fled,
stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn

back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
in the forsaken city starting to burn.

Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.
Resist the righteous scurry and instead
stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn

your thoughts away from escape: the iron
gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,

surrender to your calling, show concern
for those who remain. Come to a dead
standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn

into something essential. Learn
the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
when the forsaken city starts to burn.
Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Poem for the End of Summer

By Richard Storm

Dear Diary:
     The wealthy, pretty people are all
     at the beach, leaving the rest of us
     in an ordinary city
     with manageable streets.
     Soon they’ll be back, with
     vacation-reading book reviews
     and complaints about how
     that place has really gone off,
     filling the roads with goldenrod cabs,
     and we will know,
     truer than falling leaves,
     that summer is over.

Previously published in the New York Times

Friday, September 7, 2012

But you didn't

By Melinda Kane

Remember how I cheered like crazy at your first little league game even when you struck out four times?
I thought you'd tell me not to come anymore...
But you didn't.

Remember when I made you take your sister to her first dance?
I thought you'd hate me forever for that...
But you didn't.

Remember when you were too old to kiss goodnight anymore, but I walked into your room one night and tried anyway.

I thought you'd push me away...
But you didn't.

There were so many things I wanted to thank you for when you came home...
But you didn't.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


By Moshe Ibn Ezra

Ivory palaces built on earth
     and mansions lined with galleries
with marble columns on inlaid floors
     in spacious halls that filled with parties:
in a flash I saw them all as rubble
     and weathered ruins without a soul.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Heat of Autumn

By Jane Hirshfield

The heat of autumn
is different from the heat of summer.   
One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider.   
One is a dock you walk out on,   
the other the spine of a thin swimming horse
and the river each day a full measure colder.   
A man with cancer leaves his wife for his lover.
Before he goes she straightens his belts in the closet,   
rearranges the socks and sweaters inside the dresser
by color. That’s autumn heat:
her hand placing silver buckles with silver,   
gold buckles with gold, setting each   
on the hook it belongs on in a closet soon to be empty,   
and calling it pleasure.   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

May Day Seattle

By Sandra Noel

America once welcomed her immigrants
until we didn’t need them any longer
the Chinese who built railroads
drilled seven mile tunnels
through our purple mountains’ majesty
for  the Great Northern and Union Pacific
then told to go home and put on ships
the ones who weren’t slaughtered on the shore.
Japanese farmers who prospered in this new land
until shoved into concentration camps
the ones forced to come from Africa
as slaves,  then slaves again to southern Jim Crow laws
here so long they fought for their rights
and finally won but
so much and so many were lost in the process.
Others come from Mexico
as long as we need them
to pick our apples and asparagus
or as long as it is politically expedient
then we build a wall
enact some laws that say America welcomes
only those who have their paperwork in order.
Driving while Hispanic is the new driving while black.

“Where is your identification?
What are YOU doin’ in this neighborhood?
Go home! Go to jail! Go to hell!” BANG!”

May Day in Seattle
and workers fill the streets
signs and voices remind us
we have this right to protest peacefully.
Anarchists with no real cause
do damage in their cute little ways
masked white boys and girls
in good shoes, well fed
(Remember the weathermen?)
Peter Pans and Wendys armed
with rocks and spray cans
“Hey man, it’s the corporations!”
Hey man, it’s also you and me and all of us
together talking, singing, marching VOTING

Ghandi and Martin and Jesus
and Buddha and Aung San Suu Kyi

May Day in Seattle
(I watched it from my couch.)

Previously published in Protestpoems

Sunday, September 2, 2012


By Alicia Susan Ostriker

Get a move on
it says
every year,

day, hour, minute
keep going, keep up
the good work, go on with

your task, it
never stops reminding me
how badly I am doing it

I have to straighten out
my love life first
get that on an even keel

I say, but it says
don’t fool yourself
love lives never get straightened out

they are by nature crooked
get back to work
you don’t have forever

Live to you now from the hypothalamus
here it comes again
old drone

at the base of my skull
says listen to me woman
you are nothing

but dust
and the wounded world
is still in your hands

In the bedroom
soft skin and old regret
continue their melodious duet
the stew in the oven
is singing its please eat me song
the television is painting its face with human blood

the drone repeats
get on with it
gather grief like straw
spin it into something like gold.