Tag Archives: poetry

The Tradition

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer. 
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath. 
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

– Jericho Brown

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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)

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

– W. H. Auden

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

It was a dream I had last week
And some kind of record seemed vital.
I knew it wouldn’t be much of a poem
But I love the title.

– Wendy Cope

Jenny Kissed Me

Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss’d me.

– James Leigh Hunt

Instructions

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before.
Say “please” before you open the latch,
Go through,
Walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted front door,
As a knocker,
Do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
However,
If any creature tells you that it hungers,
Feed it.
If it tells you that it is dirty,
Clean it.
If it cries to you that it hurts,
If you can,
Ease its pain.

From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads to winter’s realm;
There is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
You can walk back safely;
You will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the wood.
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She may ask for something;
Give it to her. She
Will point the way to the castle.
Inside it are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the caste the twelve months sit about a fire,
Warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December’s frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-man will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that
Witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
Dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
Hearts can be well-hidden,
And you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.
Know that diamonds and roses
Are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one’s lips as toads and frogs:
Colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall)
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown)
Ride the gray wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, the place your journey started,
You will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.

Or rest.

Neil Gaiman

Tea

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

– Carol Ann Duffy

Exhibitionism

Want to know a secret?
I only freeze to hide.
Wrapped into my skin,
I turn the heat up when I’m alone
Stretch, skitter down the hallway
bare-footed, bare-headed, bare-faced,
and back into the warmth
Where the steaming water pours through thick air,
When I’m home alone,
I answer the telephone naked,
I dance in the shower, roll like an otter in the bath tub.
But I’m hidden, under covers
Under a thick blanket,
With the lights off and the stereo quiet,
Doors, windows closed,
When the car pulls into the driveway,
They find the thermostat where they left it.

– Claire Leon

January

Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

– William Carlos Williams

Dear Reader

Baudelaire considers you his brother, and Fielding calls out to you
every few paragraphs as if to make sure you have not closed the
book, and now I am summoning you up again, attentive ghost, dark
silent figure standing in the doorway of these words.

— Billy Collins