Monday, April 28, 2008

National Poetry Month: J.D. McClatchy

From Feb. 25, 2008, New Yorker. I haven't read much of his other work, but I love this one (I'm not usually a big fan of what gets published in the New Yorker by way of poetry... sometimes, but not often)The poem won't maintain its original formatting least not in a way that I can figure just imagine a little more air in it, more indents, a little bit tree-like:

Chinese Poem
by J.D. McClatchy

Whatever change you were considering,
Do not plant another tree in the garden.
One tree means four seasons of sadness:
What is going,
What is coming,
What will not come,
What cannot go.

Here in bed, through the south window
I can see the moon watching us both,
Someone's hand around its clump of light.
Yours? I know you are sitting out there,
Looking at silver bloom against black.

That drop from your cup on the night sky's
Lacquer you wipe away with your sleeve
As if its pleated thickets were the wide space
Between us, though you know as well as I do
This autumn is no different from the last.

Coming up in May on Outloud: Laura will attempt to "grow a boyfriend," courtesy of her friend L.P. The package says "can grow to 600% his original size" (note that the original size of the boyfriend is 3/4 of an inch...That's his whole body, mind you, en total, not just the one part. But while we're on that...What if nothing grew except that one part, 600%! Imagine? Oh lord...we are talking building-sized).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day Count Has Become Obsolete: Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith was one of my poetry professors at the University of Alabama. His book The Other Lover was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The following poem was published in a recent issue of American Poetry Review with 6 other "devotion" poems. You can read the others online here: American Poetry Review.

Devotion: Red Roof
by Bruce Smith

Write like a lover. Write like you're leaving yourself for another.
Write like you're de Beauvoir, object and subject. Write
like you must rescue yourself from yourself, become scrupulous
to the body and the rain that floods you with rage and the crude
sublimities: there was a lip print on the plastic glass wrapped
in the misty domestic interior of the room. Write like there's evidence,
there's tenderness, like Paris were the scene of a crime. A lipstick
by the bed, a phone number, a plastic glass with prints. The remote
is toxic. At the Red Roof Inn they couldn't recommend an alternative
to suffering. Like lovers we spoke of short term/long term knowledge--
and the rest in the circle of hell the telephone allows. I want
my piracy, I thought you said. The familiar doesn't travel well.
The soul doesn't travel well. Poetry spoils. Write like you're Mingus.
Write like the evidence vanishes. Inflammable walls between devoted
ghosts--smoke and the convention of the fourth wall pulled down.
Drama majors, drum majors next door, the all-night opera with starling
sounds. The Red Roof Inn hath me in thrall. The highway sounds
like the sea in storm, pirates with their perishable cargoes.
Their ship goes down. The soul doesn't travel well. Write
like the ship goes down with your belongings. Write like you're in thrall.
We're blown around like Paola and Francesca, lovers, carnal,
windy starlings, misled by the sublime--the binge and purge
of the book and the body. I'm wildly attracted to you winter and fall
when I fly the migration routes from Corpus Christi to Saint Paul.
Or is that summer? I do not travel well. I travel like a lover,
boy king or saboteur, stormed by the fluids of the body.
I'm wildly attracted to your feathers, your lip and book.
My greatest vows are in the getting out. I kneel to look under
the bed for belongings. I've pirated myself. Thank you for the chance
to fly, the leaving. Thank you for the soft pink tissue, your cargo
of ghosts. The telephone is toxic. The body's a rumor. The leaf
blower in the opera is over the top. Thank you for the brimming.
Thanks for the speech acts and action, the alternative to suffering.
Sorry for the hoarse sobs. I'm wild about the red noise of the traffic,
the holy wars of the starlings. Flying back all the songs are of glistening.
Flying back the passenger in 5D is unwilling to rescue others, unwilling
to rescue himself. Write like you've lost your belongings.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day #?: Yussi Breningstall, Age 10

This poem comes from Alligator Juniper, the first lit mag I ever worked on, out of Prescott College in Arizona.

We had a yearly contest and during this particular reading period, one of the contest entries was 10-year-old Yussi Breningstall's poem. We didn't publish it in the body of the magazine, but we did print it in the editor's note.

Oh Summers Past
by Yussi Breningstall

Oh, summers past
Oh, I remember Sholom
going swimming with me.
Oh, summers past
Oh, I remember Shimshon
on the baseball field.
Oh, he did hit those balls.
Oh, summers past
Oh, I can remember
Dovber in the attic
of the bunkhouse
Oh, summers past
Oh, I remember Mendy
and me planning to
raid another bunk.
Oh, summers past
Oh, I remember Shmueli laughing
when I told him
about the tooth fairy.
Oh, summers past.

I did google young Yussi, who would be 22 years old now, but only found a marriage announcement to one Cheved Miller. No photo. And no way to know if it's actually him. Oh, summers past.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I have completely lost my will to post poems. I'm tired. It's been a long week.

I have hopes for tomorrow (they're of the rattier variety but they are hopes nonetheless).

And y'know, there's still that slide show I promised way back when. Oh how projects just slide into the crapper. It's hard to keep up with everything I want to do, complete, share.

Take this yam for instance:

This yam has been friends with my kitchen window sill for a good...mmmh...6 and 1/2 months now, the candles from my birthday brown rice krispy treats have stuck by it all this time. I still remember it now in its youth--how robust, how healthy, how full of life! (sniffle sniffle) But the candles cheer me up. And there are more yams in the dirt. As soon as I'm finished grieving I'll go find me another.

And now I must go do kitchen detail (no, I will not be moving the yam yet. I'm not ready to say good-bye). Then sleep. Tomorrow is laundry day. (Boooooo!) And I want to clean my closet because they say you have to make room in your closet in order for the things you want to entre vouz.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

American Wedding Video: Play by Play

So here's the YouTube version of the Gogol Bordello video (see video guide below).

00:14/15 seconds = My pop's face.
1:01 = You can see a strand of my hair, and a teensy part of my face (I mean, if you freeze it and really look). Eugene is actually singing right AT me. Couldn't they have let the camera wander a little bit farther to the left?
1:17 = Pop and Ann dancing directly behind Eugene and back of dance floor; it's quick, but it's them.
1:35/36 = The infamous scene of Pam joining Pop and Ann at the table by flipping her skirt into his lap.
1:49 = If you freeze, and look directly to left of the maroon-vest wearing member of Gogol Bordello (it's Oren Kaplan for those of you who are familiar), you'll see me. Alas, I am blurry and in my tasteless gray gown. But it's me, I swear.

And while you can't see any of us in particular in the dance scene at the end, that scene was SO MUCH FUN. Pure freedom and joy.

Monday, April 21, 2008

absent without leave...but now I'm back

Oh how remiss I have been.

I can't believe a week has gone by.

My little sis was a-visiting (what a great time), and I haven't been able to face the number of poems I have to make up for. I was doing so well!

I suppose the world did without my favorite verse for the week.

Shall I make up for it? Or shall I just pick up where I left off? I don't even know if people were reading them (well, I know a couple of you have). No matter, I will continue on with National Poetry Month. I am determined!

Aaaah... I can't stand not being perfect. I wanted to build my on-line reputation as a reliable poem post-er.


Also, there is now a You Tube version of the Gogol Bordello video, which means there's a counter with it, which means I can tell you exactly where to pause the video so you can see a piece of my hair fluttering in front of the camera and the gray blur I am pushing myself back from my table so as not to get cheese puffs and finger sandwiches dumped on my lap.

I won't be able to post tomorrow night either, but may be back in the saddle, or, uh, back on the keyboard on Thursday, at which point I will post poems, and prepare a numerical guide for the American Wedding video.

Be sure to check out my friend TJ's blog. Link is to the left (beitel-blog) but also here. Very lively, smart, and eclectic postings, by a lively, smart, eclectic guy. Everything from politics to poetry to how to make oatmeal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day #14: Anne Sexton

There are so many by Ms. Sexton that I could put here, but I'm choosing one that I think of as a wild card amongst her work as a whole ... I memorized this poem in a poetry workshop, and recited it in poet Bruce Smith's living room, surrounded by books galore (he has the most books I've ever seen in an actual person's home).

If you can, read it out loud--it's lovely.
Following the poem is a short bio taken from the Academy of American Poets website (, where you can also find more of her poems.

The Nude Swim
by Anne Sexton

On the southwest side of Capri
we found a little unknown grotto
where no people were and we
entered it completely
and let our bodies lose all
their loneliness.

All the fish in us
had escaped for a minute.
The real fish did not mind.
We did not disturb their personal life.
We calmly trailed over them
and under them, shedding
air bubbles, little white
balloons that drifted up
into the sun by the boat
where the Italian boatman slept
with his hat over his face.

Water so clear you could
read a book through it.
Water so buoyant you could
float on your elbow.
I lay on it as on a divan.
I lay on it just like
Matisse's Red Odalisque.
Water was my strange flower,
one must picture a woman
without a toga or a scarf
on a couch as deep as a tomb.

The walls of that grotto
were everycolor blue and
you said, "Look! Your eyes
are seacolor. Look! Your eyes
are skycolor." And my eyes
shut down as if they were
suddenly ashamed.

Anne Sexton
Anne Gray Harvey was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1928. She attended Garland Junior College for one year and married Alfred Muller Sexton II at age nineteen. She enrolled in a modeling course at the Hart Agency and lived in San Francisco and Baltimore. In 1953 she gave birth to a daughter. In 1954 she was diagnosed with postpartum depression, suffered her first mental breakdown, and was admitted to Westwood Lodge, a neuropsychiatric hospital she would repeatedly return to for help. In 1955, following the birth of her second daughter, Sexton suffered another breakdown and was hospitalized again; her children were sent to live with her husband's parents. That same year, on her birthday, she attempted suicide.

She was encouraged by her doctor to pursue an interest in writing poetry she had developed in high school, and in the fall of 1957 she enrolled in a poetry workshop at the Boston Center for Adult Education. In her introduction to Anne Sexton's Complete Poems, the poet Maxine Kumin, who was enrolled with Sexton in the 1957 workshop and became her close friend, describes her belief that it was the writing of poetry that gave Sexton something to work towards and develop and thus enabled her to endure life for as long as she did. In 1974 at the age of 46, despite a successful writing career--she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967 for Live or Die--she lost her battle with mental illness and committed suicide.

Sexton offers the reader an intimate view of the emotional anguish that characterized her life. She made the experience of being a woman a central issue in her poetry, and though she endured criticism for bringing subjects such as menstruation, abortion, and drug addiction into her work, her skill as a poet transcended the controversy over her subject matter.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day #12 & #13: Kaia Sand and Wislawa Symborska

I've never read Kaia Sand before I found this poem in The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets, about 10 minutes ago. And I love it. There's a little synchronicity in that the other day at writing group, I wrote about being on a horse and getting to the edge of the field, and at the edge of the field you see "ten more fields followed by ten more followed by ten more." In the McSweeney's book, she is at the end of a poem tree that begins with Michael Ondaatje and moves through four poets before landing on her.

The President Probably Talks
by Kaia Sand

the president probably talks to someone every day

sometimes his lips are moving, but our volume’s too low

sometimes his voice is a tenth the volume of mine

sometimes his voice trembles inside my ten voices

sometimes his ten words devalue the currency

sometimes we promise

sometimes someone looks into someone’s eyes for truth

sometimes we think we see it

in someone’s ten coughs, tuberculosis is passed from cot to cot

sometimes ten walls separate me from two people making one decision

somewhere somehow ten women join ten women join ten women and march

my ten voices are still talking

somewhere in this city, ten meals in ten days is a boon

sometimes senators dine together

sometimes ten layoffs boom the business

sometimes we promise our poor

sometimes I feel like a holy ten-voice roller

in some sudden kiss, courage intensifies ten-fold

sometimes ten men join ten women join tens and tens and tens

sometimes someone somewhere hears this


Here's a poem by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska
(I'm going to include two translations here. I read somewhere that this poem, "Could Have," is about Holocaust survivors. I've read it over and over and I couldn't see it/feel it. It reads to me as an almost tongue-in-cheek poem about how we like to make sense of surviving, in general, make sense of accidents perhaps, believe in coincidence and meaning in the seemingly random unfolding of things. Then I found "Any Case," clearly the same poem, but translated so very differently. THAT ONE reads like it could be about Holocaust survivors. Here are both of them, if you care to compare and let me know what you think--the difference is subtle, but it is there, especially at the very end.)

Could Have
[trans. by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh]

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.

You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. On the left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck--there was a forest.
You were in luck--there were no trees.
You were in luck--a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant...

So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or speechless.
how your heart pounds inside me.

Any Case
[transl Grazyna Drabik and Sharon Olds]

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer. Farther away.
It happened, but not to you.

You survived because you were first.
You survived because you were last.
Because alone. Because the others.
Because on the left. Because on the right.
Because it was raining. Because it was sunny.
Because a shadow fell.

Luckily there was a forest.
Luckily there were no trees.
Luckily a rail, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A frame, a turn, an inch, a second.
Luckily a straw was floating on the water.

Thanks to, thus, in spite of, and yet.
What would have happened if a hand, a leg,
One step, a hair away?

So you are here? Straight from that moment still suspended?
The net's mesh was tight, but you? through the mesh?
I can't stop wondering at it, can't be silent enough.
How quickly your heart is beating in me.

If you have read this far, you probably will love Wislawa's Nobel Prize lecture/acceptance speech she gave in 1996, which starts with this sentence: "The first sentence in any speech is always the hardest."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day # 10 & #11: Elizabeth Bishop and Edna St. Vincent Millay

(Elizabeth Bishop)

I tried to get this in before close! There will have to be three in this one post tomorrow. I'm trying to keep up...

On my way to bed, here's one for the road: a good old-fashioned Elizabeth Bishop --followed by a classic Edna St. Vincent Millay (how I love her so).

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

(E. St. Vincent Millay)


Read history: thus learn how small a space
You may inhabit, nor inhabit long
In crowding Cosmos--in that confined place
Work boldly; build your flimsy barriers strong;
Turn round and round, make warm your nest; among
The other hunting beasts, keep heart and face,--
Not to betray the doomed and splendid race
You are so proud of, to which you belong.
For trouble comes to us all: the rat
Has courage, in adversity, to fight;
But what a shining animal is man,
Who knows, when pain subsides, that is not that,
For worse than that must follow--yet can write
Music; can laugh; play tennis; even plan.

Thank you and goodnight!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gogol Bordello "American Wedding" video

Gogol Bordello "American Wedding"

[see blog post for 4/24/08 with YouTube version. Better quality.]
Unfortunately, I didn't make it in, but I also noticed that neither did any of the bridesmaids, and they were main there. In one part I can see the very front of my hair and in another part I'm a milli-second of a gray blur at a table, but my pops is in it a few times!

I have to say it's a little anti-climactic. The photographs were so much more captivating I think. And the experience was so insanely incredibly fun, that the experience of the video sort of pales in comparison.

Still, it was good to see everyone again. And now it's out and done and on the air/cyber waves!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day #8 & #9: William Carlos Williams and Andrew Vecchione

These two work together.

This is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Sorry But It Was Beautiful
by Andrew Vecchione, 6th Grade, in response

Sorry I took your money and burned it but
it looked
like the world falling apart when it crackled
and burned
So I think it was worth it after all you can't
see the
world fall apart every day.

Monday, April 07, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day #7: Li-Young Lee

This is going out to mi amiga, Mo!

This Room and Everything In It

by Li-Young Lee

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
certain hard days ahead,
when I'll need what I know so clearly this moment.

I am making use
of the one thing I learned
of all the things my father tried to teach me:
the art of memory.

I am letting this room
and everything in it
stand for my ideas about love
and its difficulties.

I'll let your love-cries,
those spacious notes
of a moment ago,
stand for distance.

Your scent,
that scent
of spice and a wound,
I'll let stand for mystery.

Your sunken belly
is the daily cup
of milk I drank
as a boy before morning prayer.

The sun on the face
of the wall
is God, the face
I can't see, my soul,

and so on, each thing
standing for a separate idea,
and those ideas forming the constellation
of my greater idea.
And one day, when I need
to tell myself something intelligent
about love,

I'll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
Now I've forgotten my
idea. The book
on the windowsill, riffled by wind...
the even-numbered pages are
the past, the odd-
numbered pages, the future.
The sun is
God, your body is milk...

useless, useless...
your cries are song, my body's not me...
no good ... my idea
has evaporated...your hair is time, your thighs are song...
it had something to do
with had something
to do with love.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 6: Jack Kerouac

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh..." --from On the Road

Okay, so the following isn't really a poem. And it's more about prose. Still, it's really hard not to fall in love with it.

Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

Saturday, April 05, 2008

National Poetry Month, Days 4 & 5: Courtney Queeney and Dorianne Laux

I'm late with Friday's post, and will be off the computer for next couple of days so I'm including my entry for both days in this one post:

2 poems.

1. From Courtney Queeney's book (her first and only so far, I believe), Filibuster to Delay a Kiss. What I will say about this poem is that there were times, way back, when I was this person, and I'm glad someone else wrote it, and wrote it well, so I don't have to.

The Anti-Leading Lady on Longing

I was in that bar where enough shadow inks
over my face to wear it out.
Then I was in a car, propelled forward
by a series of controlled explosions,
strapped in for safety, aware
that at a certain speed no such thing exists.

When everyone else mooned up at stars, contriving a map,
the stars I saw were ice and dust, secular chips,
so I studied the water stains on my ceiling
till I knew those fissures and ribs
better than the cathedral roof of my own mouth.

I translate love from the hush of a hung-up phone
before a body comes to engage me for an hour.
The sound of new snow falling over old snow
outside my window.

I went on with the wrong men so long
I burnished to a high shine, but always my head
insisted on the front door, the calculated retreat.

Nights, I lower to my floorboards
and negotiate with the wood.

I've never met the male of my kind.


2. And this is Dorianne Laux, from her book What We Carry.


Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor--
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn't elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That's how it is sometimes--
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you're just too tired to open it.

Ciao til Sunday.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 3: Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning was an MFA classmate of mine at the University of Alabama in the late nineties. I am in the middle of reading Bucolics, his third and newest book. His first book, Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions, won the Yale Series of Younger Poet's prize in 2001 (just after he received his MFA. Punk.). I've been reading Bucolics for a couple of months, because it just has that pace to me. I read five poems, then I re-read, then I go back to the five before it and re-read those. I can't get enough. The poems are titled by Roman numerals, and they all have the same speaker, an endearing, spiritually hungry backwoods shepherd of a sort. He is speaking, in all the poems, to "Boss."

This is one of my favorites (so far).


do you get happy Boss do you
get tickled by a funny bird
or doubled over by a tree
a lonesome tree less lonely Boss
because it has a horse beside it
it doesn't matter if the horse
is rubbing anything or not
as long as it's beside the tree
so simple Boss a horse beside
a tree it makes me happy just
to think about two things beside
each other the stick beside the fire
the rock beside the water O
the snow beside the sleepy field
O Boss the moss beside my mouth
when I bend down to say it's me
you mossy bank you happy piece
of green it's me beside you like
a bird I thought I'd let you know
in case you don't have eyes I thought
I'd tell you Boss what always leaves
me happy if you didn't know
already Boss in case you spend
a lot of time beside yourself

Here's a link to another that I absolutely love; you can listen to him read it, too, with his Kentucky twang. "Three Truths, One Story."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 2: Marie Howe

Marie Howe is one of my favorite contemporary female poets. Here are three poems of hers that I love. "Part of Eve's Discussion" is the prologue to her first book, The Good Thief, which won the National Poetry Series years ago; the other two are from her second book, What the Living Do, which covers a lot of ground related to her brother's death from AIDS. Her new book just came out, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, but I have yet to put my hands on it.

Part of Eve's Discussion

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.


(This poem's lines are long; you'll just have to imagine the couplets actually fit into my blog format.)

The Boy

My older brother is walking down the sidewalk into the suburban summer night:
white T-shirt, blue jeans--to the field at the end of the street.

Hangers Hideout the boys called it, an undeveloped plot, a pit overgrown
with weeds, some old furniture thrown down there,

and some metal hangers clinking in the trees like wind chimes.
He’s running away from home because our father wants to cut his hair.

And in two more days our father will convince me to go to him--you know
where he is--and talk to him: No reprisals. He promised. A small parade of kids

in feet pajamas will accompany me, their voices like the first peepers in spring.
And my brother will walk ahead of us home, and my father

will shave his head bald, and my brother will not speak to anyone the next
month, not a word, not pass the milk, nothing.

What happened in our house taught my brothers how to leave, how to walk
down a sidewalk without looking back.

I was the girl. What happened taught me to follow him, whoever he was,
calling and calling his name.


The Last Time

The last time we had dinner together in a restaurant
with white table clothes, he leaned forward

and took my two hands in his and said,
I'm going to die soon. I want you to know that.

And I said, I think I do know.
And he said, what surprises me is that you don't.

And I said, I do. And he said, What?
And I said, Know that you're going to die.

And he said, No, I mean know that you are.

If you google her, you can find more of her work.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

National Poetry Month, Day 1: William Stafford

Happy National Poetry Month!

Here's my first entry. I hope to post something every day this month--hope you'll come back and visit and forward to others.

William Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914. He wrote 50 books before his death in 1993. One of his books, Traveling Through the Darkness won the National Book Award when he was 48 (in 1963). He had a close friendship with poet Robert Bly and also had a habit of writing daily before dawn, which he did for decades. "He was marvelously funny," writes poet Naomi Shihab Nye, "...he embraced and saluted the process of working. He meandered, and valued the turns...He dug in the ground. He picked things up and looked at them....He answered people's letters diligently, often closing with 'Adios.'"

One Evening

On a frozen pond a mile north of Liberal
almost sixty years ago I skated wild circles
while a strange pale sun went down.

A scattering of dry brown reeds cluttered
the ice at one end of the pond, and a fitful
breeze ghosted little surface eddies of snow.

No house was in sight, no tree, only
the arched wide surface of the earth
holding the pond and me under the sky.

I would go home, confront all my years, the rangled
events to come, and never know more than I did
that evening waving my arms in the lemon-colored light.

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

If you want to read more poems by William Stafford, visit this link at (a great resource for poetry in general).