Thursday, February 27, 2014

Our Generation

By  Jordan Nichols

Our generation will be known for nothing
Never will anybody say,
We were the peak of mankind.
That is wrong,
The truth is
Our generation is a failure
Thinking that
We actually succeeded
Is a waste. And we know
Living for money and power
Is the way to go.
Being loving, respectful, and kind
Is a dumb thing to do.
Forgetting about that time
Will not be easy, but we will try.
Changing our world for the better
Is something we never did.
Giving up
Is how we handled our problems.
Working hard
Was a joke.
We knew that
People thought we couldn't come back.
That might be true
Unless we turn things around.

(Read from bottom to top now) 

This poem was originally shared on Twitter by the author's brother.  Jordan Nichols is a 14 year old boy.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

If One More Person Asks Me "Are you still writing"

I want to snarl
“do you still breathe?”
Or have you decided
you are tired of
doing it, have found
other less boring
ways to spend your
time.
Do I still
write?
as if it was
something I chose
like ordering
cappuccino  instead
of café au lait.
Do you still feed
your cat or dog? Do
you still bathe?
And what about that
baby you’ve got
inside that carriage,
is it wearing the
same diaper it wore
its first day?

By Lyn Lifshin

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Menstruation at Forty

By Anne Sexton

I was thinking of a son.
The womb is not a clock
nor a bell tolling,
but in the eleventh month of its life
I feel the November
of the body as well as of the calendar.
In two days it will be my birthday
and as always the earth is done with its harvest.
This time I hunt for death,
the night I lean toward,
the night I want.
Well then—
speak of it!
It was in the womb all along.

I was thinking of a son ...
You! The never acquired,
the never seeded or unfastened,
you of the genitals I feared,
the stalk and the puppy’s breath.
Will I give you my eyes or his?
Will you be the David or the Susan?
(Those two names I picked and listened for.)
Can you be the man your fathers are—
the leg muscles from Michelangelo,
hands from Yugoslavia
somewhere the peasant, Slavic and determined,
somewhere the survivor bulging with life—
and could it still be possible,
all this with Susan’s eyes?

All this without you—
two days gone in blood.
I myself will die without baptism,
a third daughter they didn’t bother.
My death will come on my name day.
What’s wrong with the name day?
It’s only an angel of the sun.
Woman,
weaving a web over your own,
a thin and tangled poison.
Scorpio,
bad spider—
die!

My death from the wrists,
two name tags,
blood worn like a corsage
to bloom
one on the left and one on the right—
It’s a warm room,
the place of the blood.
Leave the door open on its hinges!

Two days for your death
and two days until mine.

Love! That red disease—
year after year, David, you would make me wild!
David! Susan! David! David!
full and disheveled, hissing into the night,
never growing old,
waiting always for you on the porch ...
year after year,
my carrot, my cabbage,
I would have possessed you before all women,
calling your name,
calling you mine.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Babi Yar

By Yevgeny Yevtushenk

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
          Today I am as old
in years as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
                      a Jew.
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
          Dreyfus.
The Philistine
          is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
                       Beset on every side.
Hounded,
          spat on,
                       slandered.

Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols in to my face.
I seem to be then
                        a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks m e aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
                               'Beat the Yids. Save Russia!'
Some grain-marketer beats up m y mother.
O my Russian people!
                              I know
                                     you
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these antisemites—
                                      without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!

I seem to be
                            Anne Frank
transparent
                           as a branch in April.
And I love.
                          And have no need of phrases.
My need
                          is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
                                   or smell!
We are denied the leaves,
                                            we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much—
                                            tenderly
embrace each other in a darkened room .
They' re coming here?
                                   Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
                                  spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
                                 Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
                                           No, it' s the ice breaking . . .
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
                                 like judges.
Here all things scream silently,
                                           and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
                                turning grey.
And I myself
          am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
          each old man
                            here shot dead.
I am 
         every child
                     here shot dead.
Nothing in me 
                   shall ever forget
The 'Internationale,' let it
                                  thunder
when the last antisemite on earth
is buried forever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all antisemites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am
                 a true Russian!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chicago

By Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
    Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
    Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
    Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
    Bareheaded,
    Shoveling,
    Wrecking,
     Planning,
    Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
         Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

By Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Republic of Poetry

By Martín Espada

In the republic of poetry,
a train full of poets
rolls south in the rain
as plum trees rock
and horses kick the air,
and village bands
parade down the aisle
with trumpets, with bowler hats,
followed by the president
of the republic,
shaking every hand.

In the republic of poetry,
monks print verses about the night
on boxes of monastery chocolate,
kitchens in restaurants
use odes for recipes
from eel to artichoke,
and poets eat for free.

In the republic of poetry,
poets read to the baboons
at the zoo, and all the primates,
poets and baboons alike, scream for joy.

In the republic of poetry,
poets rent a helicopter
to bombard the national palace
with poems on bookmarks,
and everyone in the courtyard
rushes to grab a poem
fluttering from the sky,
blinded by weeping.

In the republic of poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'm an Emotional Idiot

By Maggie Estep

I'm an Emotional Idiot
so get away from me.
I mean,
COME HERE.

Wait, no,
that's too close,
give me some space
it's a big country,
there's plenty of room,
don't sit so close to me.

Hey, where are you?
I haven't seen you in days.
Whadya, having an affair?
Who is she?
Come on,
aren't I enough for you?

God,
You're so cold.
I never know what you're thinking.
You're not very affectionate.

I mean,
you're clinging to me,
DON'T TOUCH ME,
what am I, your fucking cat?
Don't rub me like that.

Don't you have anything better to do
than sit there fawning over me?

Don't you have any interests?
Hobbies?
Sailing Fly fishing
Archeology?

There's an archeology expedition leaving tomorrow
why don't you go?
I'll loan you the money,
my money is your money.
my life is your life
my soul is yours
without you I'm nothing.

Move in with me
we'll get a studio apartment together, save on rent,
well, wait, I mean, a one bedroom,
so we don't get in each other's hair or anything
or, well,
maybe a two bedroom
I'll have my own bedroom,
it's nothing personal
I just need to be alone sometimes, you do understand,
don't you?

Hey, why are you acting distant?

Where you goin',
was it something I said?
What
What did I do?

I'm an emotional idiot
so get away from me
I mean,
MARRY ME.


For any audio of this poem click here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

By Maxine Kumin

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother's job—when we
were the long-leggèd girls?
                     — Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen,

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War

when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line. How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .
Why didn’t I go? It was fated.

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline thru limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Unraveling

By Dory Manor

How can you sing yourself a lullaby?
How can you believe that you are all alone?
You unravel from your childhood like a thread from a cloak
And nothing in nature can bring sleep to your eyes.

You travel in your soul to Lithuania or Spain
To the north of time and the west of your mind
You build yourself a gondola and row from vein to vein
And nothing in nature can bring sleep to your eyes.

Beneath a white quilt you sense in your head
Your mother bending over you, canopying the bed
And you sing and you hear yourself sing the lullaby
And nothing in nature can bring sleep to your eyes.


Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden.

This poem previously appeared in Ha'eretz.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Black Beans

By Sarah Kirsch

In the afternoon I pick up a book
In the afternoon I put a book down
In the afternoon it enters my head there is war
In the afternoon I forget each and every war
In the afternoon I grind coffee
In the afternoon I put the ground coffee
Back together again gorgeous
Black beans
In the afternoon I take off my clothes put them on
Apply make-up first then wash
Sing don't say a thing

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Our Principal

beat his wife.
We did not know it then.
We knew his slant-stripe
ties.
We said "Good morning"
in our cleanest voices.
He stood beside the door
of the office
where all the unborn
report cards lived.
He had twins
and reddish hair.
Later the news
would seep
along the gutters,
chilly stream
of autumn rain.
My mother,
newspaper dropped down
on the couch, staring
out the window -
All those years I told you
pay good attention to 
what he says. 

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Snow on Saddle Mountain

By Gary Snyder

The only thing that can be relied on
is the snow on Kurakake Mountain.
fields and woods
thawing, freezing, and thawing,
totally untrustworthy.
it's true, a great fuzzy windstorm
like yeast up there today, still
the only faint source of hope
is the snow on Kurakake mountain.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meditation

By Thomas Merton

My Lord God, 

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think
that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Amen.  


by Thomas Merton