Showing posts from 2007

A Child's Christmas in Wales

by Dylan Thomas An excerpt from A Child's Christmas in Wales . While sorting my thoughts about Christmas, it hit me: at the family celebration that I have invited to, I will see the same uncles I see every year! And I am one of them. "Were there Uncles like in our house?"   "There are always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles. And on Christmas morning, with dog-disturbing whistle and sugar fags, I would scour the swatched town for the news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out. Men and women wading or scooping back from chapel, with taproom noses and wind-bussed cheeks, all albinos, huddles their stiff black jarring feathers against the irreligious snow. Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-a

Christmas Oratio

by W. H. Auden You can never read too much Auden. And there is an enormous amount to read. Even though Christmas is not the time for academic lectures, for anyone who thinks that I have perhaps gone overboard on Auden, I refer you to Adam Gopnik’s article in the New Yorker: The Double Man Why Auden is an indispensable poet of our time. Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -- Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic. The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt, And the children got ready for school. There are enough Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -- Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully -- To love all of our relatives, and in general Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed To do

A Christmas Hymn

by Richard Wilbur A stable-lamp is lighted Whose glow shall wake the sky; The stars shall bend their voices, And every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, And straw like gold shall shine; A barn shall harbor heaven, A stall become a shrine. The child through David’s city Shall ride in triumph by: The palm shall strew its branches, And every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, Though heavy, dull, and dumb, And lie within the roadway To pave his kingdom come. Yet he shall be forsaken, And yielded up to die; The sky shall groan and darken, And every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry For stony hearts of men: God’s love upon the spearhead, God’s love refused again. But now, as at the ending, The low is lifted high; The stars shall bend their voices, And every stone shall cry. In praises of the child By whose decent among us The worlds are reconciled.

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

by Jack Gilbert How astonishing it is that language can almost mean, and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say, God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according to which nation. French has no word for home, and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would finally explain why the couples on their tombs are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated, they seemed to be business records. But what if they are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light. O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper, as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor. Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts of lon

I Hate Incense

By Ikkyu A master's handiwork cannot be measured But still priests wag their tongues explaining the "Way" and babbling about "Zen." This old monk has never cared for false piety And my nose wrinkles at the dark smell of incense before the Buddha.

I am an American

At the Top of the Food Chain but the Bottom of the Line by Judith Pordon I am an American. I rush to be before the bullet, as I push air out of my way. I snap commands, advice without request, involuntarily. I wait only briefly for anything. I comb my hair without looking, as fast as possible, then can’t understand why my strands are haphazard. I brush past, my goal in sight, but you, who are you? I am an averter. My eyes have never touched anyone. I will rush to my grave and even in the tomb will be pissed, for everything I didn’t get to finish. I am an American. I pledge allegiance to the clock, to productivity, to the bottom line.


by Alice Oswald From time to time our love is like a sail and when the sail begins to alternate from tack to tack, it’s like a swallowtail and when the swallow flies it’s like a coat; and if the coat is yours, it has a tear like a wide mouth and when the mouth begins to draw the wind, it’s like a trumpeter and when the trumpet blows, it blows like millions.... and this, my love, when millions come and go beyond the need of us, is like a trick; and when the trick begins, it’s like a toe tip-toeing on a rope, which is like luck; and when the luck begins, it’s like a wedding, which is like love, which is like everything.

poem on a paper bag

This poem was found written on a paper bag by Richard Brautigan in a Laundromat in San Francisco. The author is un known. By accident, you put Your money in my Machine (#4) By accident, I put My money in another Machine (#6) On purpose, I put Your clothes in the Empty machine full Of water and no Clothes It was lonely.


by Lisel Mueller (my mother used to ask me if I, tucked away in San Francisco, ever missed a New England winter. Yes, sometimes, Mother, even out of season). Telephone poles relax their spines, sidewalks go under. The nightly groans of aging porches are put to sleep. Mercy sponges the lips of stairs. While we talk in the old concepts- time that was, and things that are- snow has leveled the stumps of the past and the earth has a new language. It's like the scene in which the girl moves toward the hero who has not yet said, "Come here." Come here, then. Every ditch has been exalted. We are covered with stars. Feel how light they are, our lives.

You Never Know The World Aright

by Thomas Traherne (1636-1674) You never know the world aright till the Sea floweth in your Veins, till you are Clothed with the Heavens, and Crowned with the Stars; And perceive yourself to be the Sole Heir of the Whole World; And more then so, because Men are in it who are every one Sole Heirs, as well as you. Till you are intimately Acquainted with that Shady Nothing out of which this World was made; Till your spirit filleth the whole World and the Stars are your Jewels Till you love Men so as to Desire their Happiness with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own. from Centuries of Meditation

Here I am in the garden laughing

by Grace Paley ( she died yesterday, August 23, 2007 ) Here I am in the garden laughing an old woman with heavy breasts and a nicely mapped face how did this happen well that's who I wanted to be at last a woman in the old style sitting stout thighs apart under a big skirt grandchild sliding on off my lap a pleasant summer perspiration that's my old man across the yard he's talking to the meter reader he's telling him the world's sad story how electricity is oil or uranium and so forth I tell my grandson run over to your grandpa ask him to sit beside me for a minute I am suddenly exhausted by my desire to kiss his sweet explaining lips.

Primary Wonder

by Denise Levertov Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing their colored clothes, cap and bells. And then once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamor recedes: the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed One, You still, hour by hour sustain it. from Sands of the Well (1996)


by Sophie Katz She wrote this poem in memory of her mother, Chaya Esther Perelman, who died on Novemb er 22, 19 47. When Sophie died on June 10, 2007, Joel Katz, found among her papers a famous Japanese wood block of Nicherin claming the seas on his way into exile. Yes, as the sutra says, being born of a good mother helps a son find the dharma, My mother died. We opened up her bedside table Just before the auction. Pills For migraine, cough drops, a dusty comb, Old pens that didn't work. Scraps of cloth from old dresses, A dozen paperbacks, high sounding titles On poetry, metaphysics, But mostly never read. And papers Hundreds of papers Like leaves in an autumn storm, and just as ragged. Old bills with lines of poetry -- Her disembodied souls come into being With no before or after. Ten-cent notebooks The home of daring thoughts on women's needs Before Friedan or Greer. Health diary of the children, and in the back, A list of topics that would someday m

At the Cathedral's Foot

by Adam Zagajewski In June once, in the evening, returning from a long trip, with memories of France's blooming trees still fresh in our minds, its yellow fields, green plane trees sprinting before the car, we sat on the curb at the cathedral's foot and spoke softly about disasters, about what lay ahead, the coming fear, and someone said this was the best we could do now- to talk of darkness in that bright shadow. Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh [1.5.09. Today I am entirely sure that I love this poem. I could not get it out of my mind, when I returned to the 'real' world after 7 days of intensive meditation retreat in June of '07].


by Samih al-Qasim The day I'm killed my killer will find tickets in my pockets: One to peace, one to fields and the rain, and one to humanity's conscience. I beg you--please don't waste them. I beg you, you who kill me: Go.

End of a Talk with a Jailer

by Samih al-Qasim From the narrow window of my small cell, I see trees that are smiling at me and rooftops crowded with my family. And windows weeping and praying for me. From the narrow window of my small cell-- I can see your big cell!

"As we were marching"

by Aharon Shabtai Two days ago in Rafi'ah, nine Arabs were killed, yesterday six were killed in Hebron, and today -- just two. Last year as we were marching from Shenkin Street, a man on a motorcycle shouted toward us: "Death to the Arabs!" You can read interviews with three Israeli poets on The News Hour's website .

the beginning of a difficult poem

by Agi Mishol (taken from a segment on "The News Hour" on PBS ) You are only twenty and your first pregnancy is a bomb. Under your broad skirt you are pregnant with dynamite and metal shavings. This is how you walk in the market, ticking among the people, you, Andaleeb Takatka. Someone loosened the screws in your head and launched you toward the city; even though you come from Bethlehem, the House of Bread, you chose a bakery. And there you pulled the trigger out of yourself, and together with the Sabbath loaves, sesame and poppy seed, you flung yourself into the sky.


by Richard Wilbur In any company, he listens hard For signs of vanity and self-regard Reacting to each name that’s dropped, to each Complacent anecdote or turn of speech With subtle indications of surprise— A wince, perhaps, a widening of the eyes, Or a slight lifting of the brow, addressed To the egomaniac within his breast.

An Elegy

by Wendell Berry I stand at the cistern in front of the old barn in the darkness, in the dead of winter, night strangely warm, the wind blowing, rattling an unlatched door. I draw the cold water up out of the ground, and drink. At the house the light is still waiting. An old man I've loved all my life is dying in his bed there. He is going slowly down from himself. In final obedience to his life, he follows his body out of our knowing. his hands, quiet on the sheet, keep a painful resemblance to what they no longer are.