Poems for returning to work

The opposite of my weekend-arrival-poetry post the other day. The morning comes a little too early. The weather a little too hot. Etc.

Rodrigo Toscano, “At a Bus Stop in El Barrio.”

Tha’ vahnahnah go-een to keel joo.

Excuse me?

Tha’ vahnahnah    …    go-een to keel joo.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Alexa Selph, “Market Forecast.”

Adjectives continue
their downward spiral,
with adverbs likely to follow.

Katharine Coles, “The Same Old Riddle.”

We keep trying to kill it, split it, hack
It to itsy bits. We suspend it
On the wall where we can see it
Passing. We hang it around our necks

Michael Earl Craig, “Advice for Horsemen.”

When trying to catch a horse it helps if you look away.
Eye contact just pisses them off.

Dean Young, “Romanticism 101.”

Then I realized I hadn’t secured the boat.
Then I realized my friend had lied to me.
Then I realized my dog was gone
no matter how much I called in the rain.
All was change.

George Saunders’ short power

I knew George Saunders was a terrific writer. “The Semplica Girl Diaries” threw me for a loop, and for weeks after I was trying to find anyone else who’d read it too. Or tell others to read it — and why they should read it — without spoiling it. But I didn’t fully understand Saunders’ powers until reading his full Tenth of December collection over the holiday weekend.

Here’s just one paragraph of his story “Sticks.” The story isn’t much longer than this. Here’s the whole thing. Go read the whole, really. Few stories can get you to buy into a writer in two pages. This is one of those stories.

Every year Thanksgiving night we flocked out behind Dad as he dragged the Santa suit to the road and draped it over a kind of crucifix he’d built out of metal pole in the yard. Super Bowl week the pole was dressed in a jersey and Rod’s helmet and Rod had to clear it with Dad if he wanted to take the helmet off. On the Fourth of July the pole was Uncle Sam, on Veteran’s Day a soldier, on Halloween a ghost. The pole was Dad’s only concession to glee. We were allowed a single Crayola from the box at a time. One Christmas Eve he shrieked at Kimmie for wasting an apple slice. He hovered over us as we poured ketchup saying: good enough good enough good enough. Birthday parties consisted of cupcakes, no ice cream. The first time I brought a date over she said: what’s with your dad and that pole? and I sat there blinking.

Poem that stuck this summer

Because… so different, powerful, net-dropping, or all of the above.

James Baldwin, “Untitled.” Possible about the maturing of the civil rights movement. Or about celebrity. In either case, gently stunning. First lines: “Lord, / when you send the rain, / think about it, please, / a little?”

Caroline Bergvall’s “From ‘DRIFT.’ ” Part words and part images, the poem begins with pages of rough lines and slashes and builds to words blowing apart into their letters in what seems to be a storm at sea. Seems to be.

Ada Limon, “State Bird.” Metaphor breaks your heart.

Samiya Bashir, “Carnot Cycle.” Beautiful application of geology to life. Made me look up what in the world the Carnot Cycle was. Wikipedia:

The Carnot cycle is a theoretical thermodynamic cycle proposed by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824…. It can be shown that it is the most efficient cycle for converting a given amount of thermal energy into work, or conversely, creating a temperature difference (e.g. refrigeration) by doing a given amount of work.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, “Captain Lovell, ['My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars'].” Don’t read too quickly. Opens itself on reread, research.

My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars.
My head turns to the left and it moves
just like a pendulum. The kids laugh and shake
it back to me, all the ways I’m stupid,
not like them. But I know how the grass sounds
when the locusts come, like a spaceship
taking off and how it makes the air shake.

It turns out Calvocoressi is writing about her nystagmus, a condition “of involuntary eye movement, acquired in infancy or later in life, that may result in reduced or limited vision.” And Calvocoressi creates this with it.

April Bernard, “Anger.”

When, during my travels along the Gulf Coast,
the intruder returned in the night
and I did not call the cops again but stood
with a butcher knife facing the door, yelling, “Come in!”
although this time it was just the wind flapping
and banging the screen door — 

Tim Seibles, “Mosaic.” One of the longest and most enrapturing Poetry‘s published this year. “In America skin was / where you belonged, a who / you were with, a reason / someone might: how — at the / parties of hands unknown — / astonishing deaths / could meet you.”

Jane Hirshfield, “My Life Was the Size of My Life.”

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.

Mary Karr, “Descending Theology: The Resurrection.”

Forgot to post last year: California panoramas

Did some cleaning up, found great memories. Click to enlarge.

Bernal Heights in San Francisco, looking north.

Bernal Heights, looking south.

The outskirts of Point Reyes Station, South Beach.

Hog Island Oysters, on Tomales Bay in the town of Marshall.

Somewhere along Highway 1, on our way to Point Arena.

Somewhere even further north on Highway 1.

On the grounds of the Point Arena Lighthouse.

Wharfmaster Inn, Point Arena.

Bowling Ball Beach, just south of Point Arena.

The Mather grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Poems that start the weekend

The stresses, discontents, all melting or traded away for better. So, seven poems and two joyous art-poems I’ve found here and there this summer…

Matthew Sweeney, “Gold.”

After the murder, I called a meeting
to see if we were happy. I declared
I was not — I said I liked the man
we shot. You all disagreed with this.

Joanie Mackowski, “Consciousness.”

How it is fickle, leaving one alone to wander

the halls of the skull with the fluorescents
softly flickering. It rests on the head

like a bird nest, woven of twigs and tinsel
and awkward as soon as one stops to look.

Elaine Equi, “Still Life #1.”

Look deep into the blueberry eyes of breakfast.

Joshua Mehigan, “The Fair.”

The fair slid into town just as a clown
slides into pants. The fit was loose but right.

Mitch Roberson, “Every Day We Are Dancers.”

It begins with the lewd macarena
each of us performs in the shower,
then the modified twist we are hip to
with that ever-absorbent partner, the towel

Tony Fitzpatrick, “The Atomic Oriole.”

Gary J. Whitehead, “Making Love in the Kitchen.”

We do it with knives in hand,
blue tongues licking the bottoms of pots,
steam fogging the windows from hearts
of artichokes being strained.

Rita Dove, “Flirtation.”

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Mary Mapes Dodge, “The Moon Came Late.”

Not one, but two first-placers?

What a summer it’s been to be a Nats fan with a past and eternal soft spot for the Orioles. Baseball blessings like this don’t come around too often.

June 7 at Camden Yards…

Hot dog and mac and cheese and crab.

Love a late afternoon start.

And a breezy evening finish.

August 5 at Nats Park…

Jayson Werth garden gnome night. Not pictured: the gnome.

They’re off, but where’s Teddy?

He’s hiding at the finish! To knock them over and win. Good guy.

August 10 at Camden Yards…


“Did you take a picture of me because I looked like that child?”

Amazing seats, courtesy of the Grishams.

Usually ultra-subdued Buck goes nuts, gets tossed. It was amazing.

And there’s still another five weeks left to play. At least.

Chasing randomness and form