Pilgrim's Progress

by Ken Ireland Will my heart ever warm to these foreign gods? No matter that we shaved our heads for awhile. No matter that we wore socks that felt more like gloves than the fingerless mittens that mother stuffed our hands into when the pond froze over. There is still some mystery the heart cannot speak. Sometimes I feel as if I've been snowed into that one room school my grandpa talked of, huddled around the stove, a gang of kids jostling for attention like best grades, playing with tongue tangled words in a Sanskrit yeshiva, parsing phrases as cold as Tibetan snow. I aim for the precision of the shovel I used to dig out the family car after the blizzard, cutting square white blocks to toss before the plow. I train my body to own the rhythm of swinging forward, bending down from the hips, throwing my arms towards the ground. It feels like falling. When the conversation overheats, almost as loud as at auntie's Sunday table b

Praise Song for the Day

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by Graywolf Press. I have to admit to liking the poem much better when I see it in print than I did when Ms. Alexander recited it at President Obama’s Inauguration. Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each other’s eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair. Someone is trying to make music somewhere, with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice. A woman and her son wait for the bus. A farmer considers the changing sky. A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin. We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or d

Whistler’s Mother

by Philip Whalen Mother and Ed are out in the car Wait til I put on some clothes Ed’s in a hurry. He hasn’t eaten since this morning Wait till I put on some clothes. Mother and Ed are out in the car. Do you have any clothes on yet? Let me come it. Wait till I get some clothes on Ed is impatient. He and mother are waiting. Can I come in? Wait till I put on some clothes. Mother and Ed are out in the car Wait till I get into some clothes Can’t I come in? Aren’t you dressed yet? Wait till I put on some clothes Mother and Ed are out in the car Can I come in? Wait till I get on some clothes.

This Land Is Your Land

by Woody Guthrie This land is your land. This land is my land From California to the New York island; From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters This land was made for you and Me. As I was walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me that endless skyway: I saw below me that golden valley: This land was made for you and me. I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; And all around me a voice was sounding: This land was made for you and me. When the sun came shining, and I was strolling, And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling, As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: This land was made for you and me. As I went walking I saw a sign there And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." But on the other side it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me. In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, By the relief office I seen my people; As they stood

"The Catholic Bells"

by William Carlos Williams In honor of my friend, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. August 24, 1918 – December 12, 2008 Tho' I'm no Catholic I listen hard when the bells in the yellow-brick tower of their new church ring down the leaves ring in the frost upon them and the death of the flowers ring out the grackle toward the south, the sky darkened by them, ring in the new baby of Mr. and Mrs. Krantz which cannot for the fat of its cheeks open well its eyes, ring out the parrot under its hood jealous of the child ring in Sunday morning and old age which adds as it takes away. Let them ring only ring! over the oil painting of a young priest on the church wall advertising last week's Novena to St. Anthony, ring for the lame young man in black with gaunt cheeks and wearing a Derby hat, who is hurrying to 11 o'clock Mass (the grapes still hanging to the vines along the nearby Concordia Halle like broken teeth in the head of an old

First Feelings First

by Nina Cassian “Everything always happens for the first time,” I said He answered “No.” How could you recognize a frog if you hadn’t seen one before? How could you avoid burning your fingers if you hadn’t been touched, at least once, by a flame? I have recollections, but no experience, I said. My new love is as mysterious and haunting as my first one. The frog you see is not the frog you saw. I wish you’d burn your fingers again and again….

O rei de Ítaca

by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen O rei de Ítaca A civilização em que estamos é tão errada que Nela o pensamento se desligou da mão Ulisses rei de Ítaca carpinteirou seu barco E gabava-se também de saber conduzir Num campo a direito o sulco do arado The King of Ithaca Our civilization is so out of kilter that Thought has separated itself from the hand Ulysses King of Ithaca carpentered his boat And also boasted of his ability To plough a straight furrow in the field Thanks to my internet friend Rui for introducing me to the work of the Portuguese poet, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919-2004). © 1991, Sophia de Mello Breyner From: Obra Poética III Publisher: Caminho, Lisboa