Category Archives: poetry

Possibilities

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

– Wisława Szymborska

Kipling’s Vermont

The summer like a rajah dies,
And every widowed tree
Kindles for Congregationalist eyes
An alien suttee.

– Ogden Nash

Countermeasures

I wish I could keep my thoughts in order
and my ducks in a row.
I wish I could keep my ducks in a thought
or my thoughts in a duck.
My point is that we all exist, wetly, in the hunt.
The ducks are aware of this
in their own way, which is floating.
The way of the mind is brevity.
There may be other thoughts on other days
in the minds of other and better men
and their constant companions, the women,
but these same tidy capsules — never.
This is just one of the things
I noticed about my thoughts
as they passed easefully by.

– Sara Miller (Poetry magazine, 2013)

How Evolution Came to Indiana

In Indianapolis they drive
five hundred miles and end up
where they started: survival
of the fittest. In the swamps
of Auburn and Elkhart,
in the jungles of South Bend,
one-cylinder chain-driven runabouts fall
to air-cooled V-4’s, a-speed gearboxes,
16-horse flat-twin midships engines—
carcasses left behind
by monobloc motors, electric starters,
3-speed gears, six cylinders, 2-chain drive,
overhead cams, supercharged
to 88 miles an hour in second gear, the age
of Leviathan …
    There is grandeur in this view of life,   
    as endless forms
    most beautiful and wonderful
    are being evolved.
And then
the drying up, the panic,
the monsters dying: Elcar, Cord,
Auburn, Duesenberg, Stutz—somewhere
out there, the chassis of Studebakers,
Marmons, Lafayettes, Bendixes, all
rusting in high-octane smog,
ashes to ashes, they
end up where they started.
– Philip Appleman

Untitled

The limerick is furtive and mean;
You must keep her in close quarantine,
Or she sneaks to the slums
And promptly becomes
Disorderly, drunk and obscene.

Morris Bishop

On Death, without Exaggeration

It can’t take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can’t even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn’t strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won’t help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d’etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies’ skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it’s not.

There’s no life
that couldn’t be immortal
if only for a moment.

Death
always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you’ve come
can’t be undone.

– Wislawa Szymborska
(1923-2012)

English Weather

January’s grey and slushy,
February’s chill and drear,
March is wild and wet and windy,
April seldom brings much cheer.
In May, a day or two of sunshine,
Three or four in June, perhaps.
July is usually filthy,
August skies are open taps.
In September things start dying,
Then comes cold October mist.
November we make plans to spend
The best part of December pissed.

– Wendy Cope

Quantum Physics

When your wave functions make you hysterical,
Can’t find any solution numerical,
Forty-two valid paths,
and such nightmarish maths…
Just assume all your cows to be spherical.
anon MIT hacker

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

– Don Marquis

(RIP Diana Wynne Jones, my favorite author)

There’s a kitten curled up in Kilkenny was given a perfect pot of cream
And a princess asleep in a thornwrapped castle who’s dreaming a perfect dream
There’s a dog in Alaska who’ll dance with delight on a pile of mastodon bones
But I’ve got a copy of Hexwood (dedicated to me) by Diana Wynne Jones

There’s an actress who clutches her oscar (and sobs,with proper impromptu joy),
There’s a machievellian villain who’s hit on a wonderf’lly evil ploy,
There’s wizards in crystal castles and kings on their golden thrones
But I’ve got a copy of Hexwood — dedicated — to me! — by Diana Wynne Jones

There’s a fisherman out on the sea today who just caught the perfect fish,
There’s a child in Luton who opened a genie-filled bottle, and got a wish,
There are people who live in glass houses have managed to outlaw stones,
But I’ve got a copy of Hexwood, dedicated to me, by Diana Wynne Jones

– Neil Gaiman