Twenty-nine Poems
Fall 2011

After Years by Ted Kooser
Today, from a distance, I saw you / walking away, and without a sound / the glittering face of a glacier / slid into the sea. An ancient oak / fell in the Cumberlands, holding only / a handful of leaves, and an old woman / scattering corn to her chickens looked up / for an instant. At the other side / of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times / the size of our own sun exploded / and vanished, leaving a small green spot / on the astronomer's retina / as he stood on the great open dome / of my heart with no one to tell.

Boys At The Edge by Leonard Nathan
Boys at the edge / lean far over it and dare / each other to jump. / One drops a stone instead / and waits for it to strike bottom. / Time passes. Years it seems. // Years it is -- / husband, father, grandfather / dozing by the fire, // listening at the edge.

Chorus by Antonella Anedda
Come thoughts let us think you deeply / now that morning has come. / The light makes you seem strong enough / to scrape off the darkness / as though we had a shard and the night / were skin. // There's a gecko on the granite floor. / His belly pulses like spring water. / He's frightened. He's alert. / He waits without understanding. / As with us / when suddenly a hello turns into a / goodbye.

Elegy by Thomas Gray
The curfew tolls the knells of parting day, / The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, / The plowman homeward plods his weary way, / And leaves the world to darkness and to me. / Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade / Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap, / Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, / The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep. // Let not Ambition mock their useful toil, / Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; / Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile / The short and simple annals of the Poor. // Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid / Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; / Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd, / Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre: / Full may a gem of purest ray serene / The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear: / Full may a flower is born to blush unseen; / And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Ghost Story
by Gordon Sumner
I watch the western sky / The sun is sinking / The geese are flying south / It sets me thinking / I did not miss you much / I did not suffer / What did not kill me / Just made me tougher // I feel the winter come / His icy sinews / Now in the firelight / The case continues / Another night in court / The same old trial / The same old questions asked / The same denial // The shadows close me round / Like jury members / I look for answers in / The fire's embers / Why was I missing then / That whole December? / I give my usual line, / "I don't remember." // Another winter comes / His ice fingers creep / Into these bones of mine / These memories never sleep / And all these differences / A cloak I borrowed / We kept our distances / Why should it follow that / I must have loved you? // What is the force that binds the stars? / I wore this mask to hide my scars / What is the power that pulls the tide? / Never could find a place to hide / What moves the earth around the sun? / What could I do but run and run and run / Afraid to love, afraid to fail / A mast without a sail // The moon's a fingernail / And slowly sinking / Another day begins / And now I'm thinking / That this indifference / Was my invention / When everything I did / Sought your attention / You were my compass star / You were my measure / You were a pirate's map / Of buried treasure / If this was all correct / The last thing I'd expect / The prosecution rests / It's time that I confessed / I must have loved you.

Horse Names by Josh Bryars
Abracadabra & Apple Jack / Brass Plum & Buckaroo / Candlelight & Crumpet / Dropdeadgorgeous & Doodlebug / European Blend & Edelweiss / Fortune Cookie & Flying Trapeze / Glass Slippers & Ginger Snap / Hug Me Henry & Happenstance / Indepth & Isn't She Something / Just Because & Jesse James / Kalypso & Kiss Me Kate / Little Moonlight & Licketysplit / Mouse Over & Meadow Skipper / Nevarra & Nottachance / Okefenoke & Occasional Flurries / Promises Promises & Paint Bye Numbers / Questionable & Quebert / Rock-Me-Amadeus & Ransom Paycheck / Snap Dragon & Standing Ovation / Touch of Frost & Try Me Hot / Under Par & Unannounced Pleasure / Vanilla Sky & Velvet / Without Makeup & Will If I Want / Xanadu & Xanatoo / Yoyo & Yellow Daisey / Zanzibar & Zippity Doodah

Immigrant Stars by Vasko Popa
You looked at each other stars / On the sly so the sky won't see you / You meant well / Got it all backwards / The morning found you cold / Far from the hearth / Far from the heaven's gate / Look at me stars / On the sly so the earth won't see it / Give me secret signs / I'll give you a stick of cherry wood / One of my wrinkles for a path / One of my eyelashes for a guide / To take you back home (translated by Charles Simic)

Into My Heart by A.E. Housman
Into my heart an air that kills / From yon far country blows: / What are those blue remembered hills, / What spires, what farms are those? / That is the land of lost content, / I see it shining plain, / The happy highways where I went / And cannot come again.

Lines by Martha Collins
Draw a line. Write a line. There. / Stay in line, hold the line, a glance / between the lines is fine but don't / turn corners, cross, cut in, go over / or out, between two points of no / return's a line of flight, between / two points of view's a line of vision. / But a line of thought is rarely / straight, an open line's no party / line, however fine your point. / A line of fire communicates, but drop / your weapons and drop your line, / consider the shortest distance from x / to y, let x be me, let y be you.

Lines in Praise of a Date Made Praiseworthy Solely by Something Very Nice That Happened to It by Ogden Nash
As through the calendar I delve / I pause to rejoice in April twelve. // Yea, be I in sickness or be I in health / My favorite date is April twealth. // It comes upon us, as a rule, / Eleven days after April fool, // And eighteen days ahead of May Day, / When spring is generally in its heyday. // Down in New Mexico in the chapparal / Is doing nicely by the twelfth of Apparal, // And Bay State towns such as Lowell and Pepperell / Begin to bloom on the twelfth of Epperell. // But regardless of the matter of weather, There isn't any question whether. // No, not till the trumpet is blown by Gabriel / Shall we have such a day as the twelfth of Abriel.

Precautions by Marin Sorescu
I pulled on a suit of mail / made of pebbles / worn smooth by water. / I balanced a pair of glasses / on my neck / so as to keep an eye / on whatever / was coming behind me. / I gloved and greaved / my hands, my legs, my thoughts, / leaving no part of my person / exposed to touch / or other poisons. / Then I fashioned a breastplate / from the shell / of an eight-hundred-year-old / turtle. / And when everything was just so / I tenderly replied: / --I love you too.

Proverbs From Purgatory by Lloyd Schwartz
It was deja vu all over again. / I know this town like the back of my head. / People who live in glass houses are worth two in the bush. / One hand scratches the other. / A friend in need is worth two in the bush. / A bird in the hand makes waste. / Life isn't all it's crapped up to be. / It's like finding a needle in the eye of the beholder. / It's like killing one bird with two stones. / My motto in life has always been: Get It Over With. / Two heads are better than none. / A rolling stone deserves another. / All things wait for those who come. / A friend in need deserves another. / I'd trust him as long as I could throw him. / He smokes like a fish. / He's just a chip off the old tooth. / I'll have him eating out of my lap. / A friend in need opens a can of worms. / Too many cooks spoil the child. / An ill wind keeps the doctor away. / The wolf at the door keeps the doctor away. / People who live in glass houses keep the doctor away. / A friend in need shouldn't throw stones. / A friend in need washes the other. / A friend in need keeps the doctor away. / A stitch in time is only skin deep. / A verbal agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on. / A cat may look like a king. / Know which side of the bed your butter is on. / Nothing is cut and dried in stone. / You can eat more flies with honey than with vinegar. / Don't let the cat out of the barn. / Let's burn that bridge when we get to it. / When you come to a fork in the road, take it. / Don't cross your chickens before they hatch. / DO NOT READ THIS SIGN. / Throw discretion to the wolves. / After the twig is bent, the barn door is locked. / After the barn door is locked, you can come in out of the rain. / A friend in need locks the barn door. / There's no fool like a friend in need. / We've passed a lot of water since then. / At least we got home in two pieces. / All's well that ends. / It ain't over till it's over. / There's always one step further down you can go. / It's a milestone hanging around my neck. / Include me out. / It was deja vu all over again.

Rain Travel by W.S. Merwin
I wake in the dark and remember / it is the morning when I must start / by myself on the journey / I lie listening to the black hour / before dawn and you are / still asleep beside me while / around us the trees full of night lean / hushed in their dream that bears / us up asleep and awake then I hear / drops falling one by one into / the sightless leaves and I / do not know when they began but / all at once there is no sound but rain / and the stream below us roaring / away into the rushing darkness.

Semi-Literate by Joyce Sutphen
Once I had no sense of the alphabet's / Song, of its long train that wound along / The top of the chalkboard in the schoolroom. // I was anxious about little pairs of letters / That seemed to hold hands and go off into / The woods together: c and d; e and... // F (that's right!); h and I (hi!); j and k. / And then there was the caterpillar of / l-m-n-o-p. What could that be? // I was sure it meant something, something / Important, but I've never met one yet. / Q-r-s was curious, that was certain, // T-u-v I liked because it reminded / Me of a little cabin by a lake / Where waves crashed on rocks all night. W. // Was that only one letter? One piece / Of the alphabet? Or did it come apart / To make another u and v? X, oh // Yes -- that one made sense, but Y didn't / Sound the way it looked, and when you asked / "Why?" that wasn't it, but z was something // I could love: a little striped horse, gazing / Out the window, longing to go home.

The Best of It
by Kay Ryan
However carved up / or pared down we get, / we keep on making / the best of it as though / it doesn't matter that / our acre's down to / a square foot. As / though our garden / could be one bean / and we'd rejoice if / it flourishes, as / though one bean / could nourish us.

The Loon by James Tate
A loon woke me this morning. It was like waking up / in another world. I had no idea what was expected of me. / I waited for instructions. Someone called and asked me / if I wanted a free trip to Florida. I said, "Sure. Can / I go today?" A man in a uniform picked me up in a limousine, / and the next thing I know I'm being chased by an alligator / across a parking lot. A crowd gathers and cheers me on. / Of course, none of this really happened. I'm still sleeping. / I don't want to go to work. I want to know what the loon is / saying. It sounds like ecstasy tinged with unfathomable / terror. One thing is certain: at least they are not speaking / of tax shelters. The phone rings. It's my boss. She says, / "Where are you?" I say, "I don't know. I don't recognize / my surroundings. I think I've been kidnapped. If they make / demands of you, don't give in. That's my professional advice." / Just then, the loon let out a tremendous looping, soaring, / swirling, quadruple whoop. "My god, are you alright?" my / boss said. "In case we do not meet again, I want you to know / that I've always loved you, Agnes," I said. "What?" she said. / "What are you saying?" "Good-bye, my darling. Try to remember me / as your loyal servant," I said. "Did you say you loved / me?" she said. I said, "Yes," and hung up. I tried / to go back to sleep, but the idea of being kidnapped had me / quite worked up. I looked in the mirror for signs of torture. / Every time the loon cried, I screamed and contorted my face / in agony. They were going to cut off my head and place it on / a stake. I overheard them talking. They seemed like very / reasonable men, even, one might say, likeable.

The Master Speed (excerpt) by Robert Frost
No speed of wind or water rushing by / But you have speed far greater. You can climb / Back up a stream of radiance to the sky, / And back through history up the stream of time. / And you were given this swiftness, not for haste / Nor chiefly that you may go where you will, / But in the rush of everything to waste, / That you may have the power of standing still...

The Patience of Ordinary Things by Pat Schneider
It is a kind of love, is it not? / How the cup holds the tea, / How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare, / How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes / Or toes. How soles of feet know / Where they're supposed to be. / I've been thinking about the patience / Of ordinary things, how clothes / Wait respectfully in closets / And soap dries quietly in the dish, / And towels drink the wet / From the skin of the back. / And the lovely repetition of stairs. / And what is more generous than a window?

The Shadow Maker by Vasko Popa
You walk forever and ever / Over your own individual infinity / From head to heel and back // You're your own source of light / The zenith is in your head / In your heel its setting // Before it dies you let your shadows out / To lengthen to estrange themselves / To work miracles and shame / And bow down only to themselves // At zenith you reduce the shadows / To their proper size / You teach them to bow to you / And as they bow down to disappear // You're coming this way even today / But the shadows won't let us see you

The Trail Is Not a Trail by Gary Snyder
I drove down the Freeway / And turned off at an exit / And went along a highway / Til it came to a sideroad / Drove up the sideroad / Til it turned to a dirt road / Full of bumps, and stopped. / Walked up a trail / But the trail got rough / And it faded away -- / Out in the open, / Everywhere to go.

The Yawn by Paul Blackburn
The black-haired girl / with the big / brown / eyes / on the Queens train coming / in to work, so / opens her mouth so beautifully / wide / in a ya-aawn, that / two stops after she has left the train / I have only to think of her       and I / o-oh-aaaww-hm / wow!

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale by Dan Albergotti
Measure the walls. / Count the ribs. / Notch the long days. / Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires / with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals. / Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices. / Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way / for the dim glow of light. / Work on your reports. Review / each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments / of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you. / Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound / of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart. / Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope, / where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all / the things you did and could have done. Remember / treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes / pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early / and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, / then with cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made / banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. // I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. / When the rooms were warm, he'd call, / and slowly I would rise and dress, / fearing the chronic angers of that house, // Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold / and polished my good shoes as well. / What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?

Time With You by Gary Soto
We're thirteen, almost fourteen, / And so much in love / We want the years to pass -- / Clouds roll at super speed, rains fall, / Flowers unfold and die at the snap / Of our fingers. I want to stuff sand / Through a fat hourglass, / And rip the pages from the calendar. / Let me blow candles from my cake. / Let my puppy stretch to full size. / When we turn eighteen, / Time will become a canoe on a still lake.

Toward Paris by Peter Makuck
My first time on the night train / I couldn't sleep / With expectation, the lucky / Shapes of houses wrapped in dream -- / Trees slowed, then creaked to a stop. / 4:00 a.m. under country stars. / Lower the window: new air, / A deserted dirt road and / A peasant pedaling away, / A wand-like loaf in his hand, / Tail-light growing weak / Red in the dark, as if his work / Was to bring fresh light / To woods and fields. He did, / Keeping me there at that / Balanced blue hour even later / In the Sainte Chappelle, / The blur of the Louvre and after.

Walking to Work
by Ted Kooser
Today, it's the obsidian / ice on the sidewalk / with its milk white bubbles / popping under my shoes / that pleases me, and upon it / a lump of old snow / with a trail like a comet, / that somebody, / probably falling in in love, / has kicked / all the way to the corner.

When We Sold the Tent by Rhina P. Espaillat
When we sold the tent / we threw in the Grand Canyon / with its shawl of pines, / lap full of cones and chipmunks / and crooked seams of river. // We let them have the / parched white moonscapes of Utah, / and Colorado's / magnificat of flowers / sunbursting hill after hill. // Long gentle stretches / of Wyoming, rain outside / some sad Idaho / town where the children, giddy / with strange places, clowned all night. // Eyes like small veiled moons / circling our single light, sleek / shadows with pawprints, / all went with the outfit; and / youth, a river of campfires. 

Where Go the Boats by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dark brown is the river, / Golden is the sand. / It flows along for ever, / With trees on either hand. // Green leaves a-floating, / Castles of the foam, / Boats of mine a-boating-- / Where will all come home? // On goes the river / And out past the mill, / Away down the valley, / Away down the hill. // Away down the river, / A hundred miles or more, / Other little children / Shall bring my boats ashore.

Yes by William Stafford
It could happen any time, tornado, / earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. / Or sunshine, love, salvation. // It could you know. That's why we wake / and look out--no guarantees / in this life. // But some bonuses, like morning, / like right now, like noon, / like evening.