Poems during a stressful season

How Wonderful” by Irving Feldman.

How wonderful to be understood,
to just sit here while some kind person
relieves you of the awful burden
of having to explain yourself…

Asleep You Become a Continent” by Francisco Aragon.

asleep you become a continent—
undiscovered, mysterious, long,
your legs mountain ranges
encircling valleys, ravines

Fiction” by Howard Nemerov, via Lori.

The people in the elevator all
Face front, they all keep still, they all
Look up with the rapt and stupid look of saints

“Something in the Night” by Bruce Springsteen.

November, November, November

Errata” by Kevin Young.

Baby, give me just
one more hiss

We must lake it fast

I want to cold you
in my harms

November” by Maggie Dietz.

The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who’d wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door.

On the resurrection roots of the word “remixed.”

Even when produced with the most meticulous scholarship, our dictionaries ought to remind us that words exceed our best efforts at definition and classification, and that careful reading often ends not in perfect certainty but humility.

Four poems for this weekend

Cuba, 1962” by Ai because the Poetry Foundation put it in their “Poem of the Day” RSS feed and I’ve never found a poem in that feed more surprising.

“Dividend of the Social Opt-Out” by Jennifer Moxley, via Lindsay, because it has been a busy year and a too-busy fall and I would welcome not doing things.

How nice not to hope that something will happen,
but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that
nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.
It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.

Prayer” by Yehoshua November because it finds different but equally beautiful (and powerful) means to the same end as Jennifer Moxley’s social opt-out.

“My Father Sings Like a Crow” by C. L. O’Dell because few poems capture our ideas of our fathers so well — and my good friend Jonny just became a dad.

A whole life lives in each fist of my father
the way a burning city lives in a firefly’s gut. It’s there,
a faint light cradling a chicken egg, clutching an axe,
raising a newborn’s almost see-through body.

Three poems for early fall as days start to get shorter

The God Who Loves You,” by Carl Dennis. The poem is about God until you discover the poem is about our perception of God amid our thoughts and worries. Or so I think.

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you’d be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.

Chicago,” by Carl Sandburg. So brutal, so alive. “Hog Butcher for the World,” begins Sandburg’s address to the city, his muse. “Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”

For the Chipmunk in My Yard,” by Robert Gibb. A squirrel who guessed wrong nearly landed on Lori’s head from a great height the other day, and I’ve enjoyed paying more attention to tree creatures since then. Gibb outdoes me.

Summer poems

Here are my favorite poems from recent issues of Poetry magazine. The imagination of their writers never fails to amaze me. Always pushing on what they see, pushing on what they feel, pushing on meaning in the everyday or cornerstones of the era. And then to reduce all of the thoughts into a relative brevity– I often find myself as impressed with the editorial honesty as the philosophical.

Ampersands.” Punctuation-inspired beauty.

… and we shared thick and hearty laughs, and continued into the very
dense jungle. And thick. Preceding us on the trailsides were ruins
overgrown, boots stuck in mud, and heads of sunken ampersands.
Which made sense to us, for….

The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For.” Anxiety and peace.

I drove so long to find I forgot I had

been looking for them, for the you
I once knew and the you that was born

waiting for me to find you. I have been
twisting and turning across these lifetimes

From ‘Anagrams’.” Too hard to explain, too hard to quote.

Forget-Me-Not.” Rhymes you have to say aloud to believe.

From the get-go I have always sought
to know (what, what?) if this is all I’ve got,
to show up in a vestibule, all bothered and hot,
like silver-fingered Iscariot,
like the smiling highwayman, tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot,
while all about me are consigned to slather and rot.

Darkness of the Subjunctive.” Grammatical beauty.

Then we would thrive inside the subjunctive,
where nothing happens but dreams of being,
as paradise dreams of its inferno,
the inferno of cotton candy.

A one-ended boomerang.” What an image! What heartbreak.

How I can hear the sand slip downward in my body clock? I need to be here, could be there, and not long ago the only place you wanted me to be was by your side … maybe?

My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night.” Lover known and unknown.

When rain inspires the night birds to create
Rhyme and formal verse, stanzas can be made
Between abstract expression and first light.

Carousel.” How quiet night feels.

You were lured
in a luminous canoe
said to have once ruled
a lunar ocean.

Painted Turtle.” Tough, sad and questioning.

Summer road the ring around the lake, we drove mostly in silence.

Why aren’t I your wife?

You swerved around a turtle sunning itself.

A poem about snails is good for summer (and so is an epic)

First of all, the July/August issue of Poetry had a glow-in-the-dark cover. How cool was that? Not enough glow-in-the-dark publications, in my opinion. Three favorites from the issue, full of translations:

That is the example that snails offer us: saints who make masterpieces 
of their lives, works of art of their own perfection. They secrete form. Nothing outside themselves, their necessity, or their needs is their work. Nothing is out of proportion with their physical being. Nothing that is unnecessary or obligatory.

And over in The New Yorker, part of a (successful!) catch-up mission this summer, Rita Dove’s “Found Sonnet: The Wig” finds great narrative life in the ordinary (which of course is life). I also loved Rebecca Hazelton’s “Letter to the Editor,” which will warm your heart too if you’ve read enough reader letters.

I do not think you cannot have meant I assume it’s in error
it comes to my attention it rises from the muck it sways
elephantine in a Gulf Stream breeze you surely meant
other you must have encountered others you are much
mistaken in this and in all other circumstances I assume
it’s in error I cannot think you mean to suggest it comes
from a childhood spent waiting for someone to notice

Meanwhile, at work, poet Aimee Nezhukumatahil visited, and it was great. (One of her poems showed up in the blog in January.) Her cousin turns out to be one of our marketing leads. (Hooray!) I got a copy of Nezhukumatahil’s Lucky Fish at the work reading and couldn’t put it down. A favorite — one of many — from the collection was “At Hundred Islands National Park, I Count Only One Island.” You should pick up her work, seriously. It will light up your day.

Nezhukumatahil at NPR.

Last but not least: My parents gave me Seamus Heaney’s translation of Aeneid Book VI, the one I mentioned the other week, for my birthday. How good? One sitting. That good. Heaney was a magician. I wish he could have done the entire book. The translation is a love letter to Latin-class translation, and every line comes alive in a way you wish your school self had been able to accomplish. The epic is epic. When Aeneas visits the Sibyl to find his way to the underworld is just one moment of many:

Thus from her innermost shine the Sibyl of Cumae
Chanted menacing riddles and made the cave echo
With sayings where truths and enigmas were twined
Inextricably, while Apollo reined in her spasms
And curbed her, or sank the spurs in her ribs.

How life is this summer

Rain” by Kazim Ali. “With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain. / Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.”

Brian Age Seven” by Mark Doty. “Why do some marks / seem to thrill with life, / possess a portion / of the nervous energy / in their maker’s hand?”

Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. “Life is short, though I keep this from my children. / Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine / in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways…”

The crowd at the ball game” by William Carlos Williams. “It is summer, it is the solstice / the crowd is / cheering, the crowd is laughing / in detail…”

Celebration for June 24” by Thomas McGrath. “Your face against the night was my medallion. / Your coming forth aroused unlikely trumpets / In the once-tame heart.”

Summer Kitchen” by Donald Hall, via Lori. “In June’s high light she stood at the sink / With a glass of wine, / And listened for the bobolink, / And crushed garlic in late sunshine.”

Here’s What All The Buttons On An IndyCar Steering Wheel Do” from the Jalopnik blog. “A typical IndyCar steering wheel has 13 main features: a dashboard, RPM shift lights, pit-lane speed limiter, push-to-talk radio switch, fuel-level reset button, fuel-map switch, dash scroll, weight jacker, drink switch, neutral button, reverse, push-to-pass and clutch paddles.”