Yannis Ritsos’s “January 21”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is Yannis Ritsos’s “January 21.” Oh, to have written that last image.

 

January 21

 

A cessation.

You’re not searching.

How nice it is tonight.

Two birds fell asleep in your pocket.

 

                                                      Yannis Ritsos

John Brehm’s The Poetry of Mindfulness, Impermanence and Joy

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. But today’s is a book recommendation: John Brehm’s anthology The Poetry of Mindfulness, Impermanence and Joy. This is the perfect last-minute gift for any reader on your list, or anyone who might enjoy some beautiful and accessible poems for read in 2018.

Check it out here

MPJ

 

 

Russell Edson’s “With Sincerest Regrets”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is Russell Edson’s “With Sincerest Regrets.” This poem cracks me up. I love making poems funny.

WITH SINCEREST REGRETS

Like a white snail the toilet slides into the living room, demanding to be loved.
It is impossible, and we tender our sincerest regrets.
In the book of the heart there is no mention made of plumbing.

And though we have spent our intimacy many times with you, you belong to a rather unfortunate reference, which we would rather not embrace…

The toilet slides out of the living room like a white snail, flushing with grief…

 

                                                Russell Edson

Charles Wright’s “WHAT DO YOU WRITE ABOUT, WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM?”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is Charles Wright’s “WHAT DO YOU WRITE ABOUT, WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM?”

“Never again, never again” is often the feeling that spurs a poem in me.

 

WHAT DO YOU WRITE ABOUT, WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM?

 

Landscape, of course, the idea of God and language

itself, that pure grace

which is invisible and sure and clear,

fall equinox two hours old,

pine cones dangling and doomed over peach tree and privet,

clouds bulbous and buzzard-traced.

The Big Empty is also a subject of some note,

dark dark and never again,

the missing word and there you have it,

heart and heart beat,

never again and never again,

backdrop of beack yard and earth and sky

jury-rigged carefully into place,

wind from the west and then some,

everything up and running hard,

everything under way,

never again never again.

 

                                                Charles Wright, Appalachia

Robert Frost’s “Good Hours”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is Robert Frost’s “Good Hours.” The rhyme in the 5th and 6th lines breaks my heart every time.

 

GOOD HOURS

I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.

And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.

I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.

Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.

 

                        Robert Frost

From Louise Gluck’s “Fugue”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is from Louise Gluck’s poem “Fugue,” from the book Averno. The mix of memory and myth creates magic.

 

From FUGUE

 

6.

I had a dream: my mother fell out of a tree.

After she died, the tree died:

it had outlived its function.

My mother was unharmed—her arrows disappeared, her wings

turned into arms. Fire creatures. Sagittarius. She finds herself in—

 

a suburban garden. It is coming back to me.

 

I put the book aside. What is a soul?

A flag flown

too high on the pole, if you know what I mean.

 

The body

cowers in the dreamlike underbrush.

 

Well, we are here to do something about that.

 

(In a German accent.)

 

I had a dream: we are at war.

My mother leaves her crossbow in the high grass.

 

(Sagittarius, the archer.)

 

My childhood, closed to me forever,

turned gold like an autumn garden,

mulched with a thick layer of salt marsh hay.

10.

A golden bow: a useful gift in wartime.

 

How heavy it was—no child could pick it up.

 

Except me: I could pick it up.

 

 

                        Louise Glück

 

Carolyn Forche’s “The Colonel.”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is Carolyn Forche’s “The Colonel.” This is one of the first poems I read when I first wanted to really be a poet. The last sentence immediately became one of my “ars poeticas” (or in everyday language, how and what I want to write).

The Colonel

What you have heard is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.
May 1978
Carolyn Forche                                  

 

from Adrienne Rich’s “Secrets, Lies, and Silence”

I’m posting a series of poems and excerpts from poems and essay that I love. Today’s is from Adrienne Rich’s essay “Secrets, Lies, and Silence.” These words have inspired me to tell my truth in poems, especially over the last two years.

 

from Adrienne Rich’s “Secrets, Lies, and Silence”

 

Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

To lie habitually, as a way of life, is to lose contact with the unconscious. It is like taking sleeping pills, which confer sleep but blot out dreaming. The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than truth.

 

When a woman

tells the truth

she is creating

the possibility for

more truth around her.

                                                                                          Adrienne Rich

 

Poem for Ruby on the Day of Her Funeral

Your real name was Grandma Georgina

You were a New Mexican barn cat

You loved tuna

I locked you in the bathroom at 3 AM daily so you wouldn’t wake us up

You just curled up in the purple washcloth basket and waited to be let out

We could never use washcloths because they were too cat-hairy

You never meowed for food

except for tuna

when you heard a can opening you came running

You even took cat medicine embedded in tuna!

 

You loved Amelia

You let yourself be carried and cuddled

You never scratched or bit

Her bed was full of cat hair

You messed up Dean’s sleep by snuggling against his legs and because he is so kind to cats he never moved you

Suki chased you every time she saw you

You were always cat-germing up the kitchen counters

 

You loved being outside

You murdered grasshoppers and butterflies and once a small bird

You climbed fences and got on roofs

From the top of the roof you would meow at us and lie down and purr

We had to call you inside every night from the alley

and you would come running

lie down on the ground and meow

and let us pick you up and take you inside

Once we could not find you and spent an hour outside in the dark and snow calling you

finally we heard a faint meow from Amelia’s room

you were locked in Amelia’s closet!

 

You were soft and gray and white with white paws and a pink tongue and pink toe pads

You followed Dean through the alley to the community garden

You waited for him at Bannock and meowed till he came back

 

The day you died we tried to stop you from crossing the street

but you happily pranced across and we let you go

We are so sorry Ruby

We love you so much and we miss you

You were the best of all cats

you were sweet and gentle and brave and loving

 

Thank you for being our pet

Ruby and Amelia

for Ruby Brown O’Connor Sanderford

3-17-15 / 9-12-17

 

 

How To Write a Poem About Butterflies

Go ahead and put butterflies in the title so it’s clear where this is going. Write it on your daughter’s eighth birthday so you can establish right away you’re a mother—easier to admit sentiment than fight it. Start with maybe the day she was born, how you almost died from high blood pressure, or her first day of second grade, when you watched the eclipse with her class: either would suggest a sense of urgency, of the ephemeral. Plus you could use the word moon. Then lean scientific, throw in some facts about the painted lady migration passing through the city, that because the butterflies are drawn to the drought-resistant flowers your husband planted, your front yard is full of them. You could mention how your daughter’s cat Ruby died last week in that front yard, after crossing the street in front of a moving car, after her body—you watched—sort of flipped up in the air, so you thought she was being stung by bees—but then you’d be using the word died twice, and there’s no good synonym for died, like you can’t say the cat perished, or expired, or kicked the bucket. In any case, put in that the sidewalk is stained with splatters of her blood, because it’s a cold hard fact, right? It grounds things. And cars still fly by at double the speed limit, ignoring the sign you made, Slow Down, Kids and Pets Live Here. So it’s not all peachy, even though there are maybe 200 butterflies in the front yard right now, covering every flower, fluttering, they’re, they’re, animating the plants. When you walk out, you startle them so they—what do they do? They rise up, they take off, they fly up off the flowers for a second to see what you will do. You don’t do anything, you stand there watching, thinking it’s now, knowing what you want is impossible, but it’s true that the air is all wings and movement, it’s an ascension, and you are here.