Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote... April 1, 2016 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Today is the first day of the United State's National Poetry Month. In celebration, I was hoping my fellow metafites would share their favorite poems/lines of poetry.
posted by CMcG to MetaFilter-Related at 7:16 AM (126 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

These wrinkles are nothing.
These gray hairs are nothing.
This stomach which sags
with old food, these bruised
and swollen ankles,
my darkening brain,
they are nothing.
I am the same boy
my mother used to kiss.

(The first stanza of 'Not Dying' by Mark Strand - I think of my father who was such a good son to his mother and it makes me cry every time.)
posted by h00py at 7:33 AM on April 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Marie Osmond performing Hugo Ball's "Karawane."

jolifanto bambla o falli bambla
großiga m’pfa habla horem
egiga goramen
higo bloiko russula huju
hollaka hollala
anlogo bung
blago bung blago bung ...

(BonusCon: video of MO performing "Karawane" on Ripley's Believe It Or Not.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:39 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Time comes into it.
Say it.    Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
(Poem IX from Muriel Rukeyser's The Speed of Darkness.)
posted by zamboni at 7:40 AM on April 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

-The Old Astronomer to His Pupil
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:46 AM on April 1, 2016 [11 favorites]

It has to be Jim Harrison:

What will I hold or will I
be caught with this usual thing
that I want to be my heart but
it is my brain and I turn it
over and over and over.

posted by barchan at 7:47 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

There's a ton of poetry I love, but the bleakness of Donald Hall's Distressed Haiku has always been a masterclass in sadness to me:

by Donald Hall

In a week or ten days
the snow and ice
will melt from Cemetery Road.

I'm coming! Don't move!


Once again it is April.
Today is the day
we would have been married
twenty-six years.

I finished with April
halfway through March.


You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.


Will Hall ever write
lines that do anything
but whine and complain?

In April the blue
mountain revises
from white to green.


The Boston Red Sox win
a hundred straight games.
The mouse rips
the throat of the lion

and the dead return.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:06 AM on April 1, 2016 [13 favorites]

A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river
but then he's still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he's still left with his hands.

(From Richard Siken's "Boot Theory")
posted by yasaman at 8:07 AM on April 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Or Sherman Alexie, and how Basketball is truth, all while connecting us to the past.


Basketball is
a series of prayers.

Shoot the ball
and tell me

you believe

My father
shoots the ball.

As it spins away
my father prays.



As he dribbles
past you, into the
paint, then stops, pivots
and gives the big man
a head fake, you must
remember that my
father can shoot with either
the right or left hand.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:10 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Wait, is April poetry month because of Chaucer?
posted by Jahaza at 8:12 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Someone who loved me once sent me this...

Already, you are mine. Rest with your dream inside my dream.
Love, grief, labour, must sleep now.
Night revolves on invisible wheels
and joined to me you are pure as sleeping amber.

No one else will sleep with my dream, love.
You will go we will go joined by the waters of time.
No other one will travel the shadows with me,
only you, eternal nature, eternal sun, eternal moon.

Already your hands have opened their delicate fists
and let fall, without direction, their gentle signs,
you eyes enclosing themselves like two grey wings,

while I follow the waters you bring that take me onwards:
night, Earth, winds weave their fate, and already,
not only am I not without you, I alone am your dream.

-Pablo Neruda, Sonnet LXXXI

excuse me, onions
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on April 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Wait, is April poetry month because of Chaucer?

My understanding is that it has more to do with its inherent cruelty, as some wag once wrote of it.

Speaking of cruel, how about...

Margaret Atwood, "You Fit Into Me"

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

That's the whole thing, first line and all. Ok, so that's Canadian. But still.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:17 AM on April 1, 2016 [14 favorites]

"... I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:20 AM on April 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Amy Lowell's poem Venus Transiens.
Tell me,
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are,
When she topped
The crinkled waves,
Drifting shoreward
On her plaited shell?
Was Botticelli’s vision
Fairer than mine;
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness
As with a gauze
Of misted silver?

For me,
You stand poised
In the blue and buoyant air,
Cinctured by bright winds,
Treading the sunlight.
And the waves which precede you
Ripple and stir
The sands at my feet.

I will not lie - this poem has helped me seduce women.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:28 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

From a student written play when I was but a wee slip of a thing:

Let us speak of steam, and milk, and butterflies
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:33 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn":

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Haven't studied since college and now I'm inspired to read the analysis.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:41 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

From "Rant" by Diane di Prima:

the war that matters is the war against the imagination
all other wars are subsumed in it.

the ultimate famine is the starvation
of the imagination

it is death to be sure, but the undead
seek to inhabit someone else's world

the ultimate claustrophobia is the syllogism
the ultimate claustrophobia is "it all adds up"
nothing adds up & nothing stands in for
anything else


posted by dnash at 8:47 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Keeping Things Whole, Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
posted by gauche at 8:48 AM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
posted by gauche at 8:50 AM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

I have a soft spot for Gerard Manly Hopkins, who is always fun to read aloud:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

posted by emjaybee at 8:50 AM on April 1, 2016 [13 favorites]

Grace, by Jake Adam York

Because my grandmother made me
the breakfast her mother made her,
when I crack the eggs, pat the butter
on the toast, and remember the bacon
to cast iron, to fork, to plate, to tongue,
my great grandmother moves my hands
to whisk, to spatula, to biscuit ring,
and I move her hands too, making
her mess, so the syllable of batter
I’ll find tomorrow beneath the fridge
and the strew of salt and oil are all
memorials, like the pan-fried chicken
that whistles in the grease in the voice
of my best friend’s grandmother
like a midnight mockingbird,
and the smoke from the grill
is the smell of my father coming home
from the furnace and the tang
of vinegar and char is the smell
of Birmingham, the smell
of coming home, of history, redolent
as the salt of black-and-white film
when I unwrap the sandwich
from the wax-paper the wax-paper
crackling like the cold grass
along the Selma to Montgomery road,
like the foil that held
Medgar’s last meal, a square of tin
that is just the ghost of that barbecue
I can imagine to my tongue
when I stand at the pit with my brother
and think of all the hands and mouths
and breaths of air that sharpened
this flavor and handed it down to us,
I feel all those hands inside
my hands when it’s time to spread
the table linen or lift a coffin rail
and when the smoke billows from the pit
I think of my uncle, I think of my uncle
rising, not falling, when I raise
the buttermilk and the cornmeal to the light
before giving them to the skillet
and sometimes I say the recipe
to the air and sometimes I say his name
or her name or her name
and sometimes I just set the table
because meals are memorials
that teach us how to move,
history moves in us as we raise
our voices and then our glasses
to pour a little out for those
who poured out everything for us,
we pour ourselves for them,
so they can eat again.
posted by gauche at 8:52 AM on April 1, 2016 [13 favorites]

Vespers, Louise Glück

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:57 AM on April 1, 2016 [11 favorites]

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

~Wendell Berry
posted by charmedimsure at 9:05 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

"And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man

The lines further:

"Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer ..."

used to make me chant

"Oh I have been to Ludlow Falls
And lost my shoes and racked my balls ..."

whenever I passed that little village.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:12 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ithaca - C.P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
posted by hippybear at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

whenever I passed that little village.

heh, that's where my grandparents lived!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tony Harrison, 'National Trust'

Bottomless pits. There's one in Castleton,
and stout upholders of our law and order
one day thought its depth worth wagering on
and borrowed a convict hush-hush from his warder
and winched him down; and back, flayed, grey, mad, dumb.

Not even a good flogging made him holler!

O gentlemen, a better way to plumb
the depths of Britain's dangling a scholar,
say, here at the booming shaft at Towanroath,
now National Trust, a place where they got tin,
those gentlemen who silenced the men's oath
and killed the language that they swore it in.

The dumb go down in history and disappear
and not one gentleman's been brought to book:

Mes den hep tavas a-gollas y dyr

'the tongueless man gets his land took.'
posted by Catseye at 9:27 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh. Seamus Heaney, "Digging", particularly the opening stanza:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

If gravity were like weather,
fickle, girdling the planet
in waves and pockets, there would
be days on which we could not move.
We would lie helpless, strapped
to the slowly turning earth.
For hours at a time we would consider
the nature of such an existence,
its underpinnings, its weights.

Bruce Boston
posted by cashman at 9:45 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Man in a forest away from man
The leafage lay low greenjoy engrossing like a cloud
reaches into the noon and spreads a black choir
Dream steps down from a chessboard sky and conducts
the oratorio certain to bare the love of man a ball of snakes
All man is ONE in this sad
inharmonious weird predicament

-- Gregory Corso, from All Life is a Rotary Club

I am an Old.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:52 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:08 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

       while ago
    this book would
   have been called
 and earlier still it
   would have been 
– Leonard Cohen, A Note on the Title
posted by frimble at 10:18 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective

- Phillip Lopate (1943)
posted by zarq at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2016 [23 favorites]

Wait, is April poetry month because of Chaucer?

My understanding is that it has more to do with its inherent cruelty, as some wag once wrote of it.

Every year, some overeager organization or tin-eared headline writer will announce National Poetry Month’s arrival like this: “April is the coolest month!” Which I thoroughly enjoy every spring, because as much as I love Eliot I love the idea of his discomfiture at such a line even more.
posted by miles per flower at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

The Origin of Baseball, by Kenneth Patchen

Someone had been walking in and out
Of the world without coming
To much decision about anything.
The sun seemed too hot most of the time.
There weren't enough birds around
And the hills had a silly look
When he got on top of one.
The girls in heaven, however, thought
Nothing of asking to see his watch
Like you would want someone to tell
A joke--'Time,' they'd say, 'what's
That mean--time?' laughing with the edges
Of their white mouths, like a flutter of paper
In a madhouse. And he'd stumble over
General Sherman or Elizabeth B.
Browning, muttering, 'Can't you keep
Your big wings out of the aisle?' But down
Again, there'd be millions of people without
Enough to eat and men with guns just
Standing there shooting each other.

So he wanted to throw something
And he picked up a baseball.
posted by miles per flower at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

"A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed.
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two, which is good and which is harmful?
Some things are not favored by heaven.
Who knows why?
Even the sage is unsure of this.

The Way of heaven does not strive, and yet it overcomes.
It does not speak, and yet is answered.
It does not ask, yet is supplied with all its needs.
It seems at ease, and yet it follows a plan.

The net of heaven is vast, so vast,
Its mesh is wide
Yet nothing slips through."

-Tao te Ching #73
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've got one poem memorized. Let's see if I still have it.

When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age
When sometime lofty towers I see down-rased
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage.

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore
And the firm soil win of the watery main
Increasing store with loss and loss with store

When I have seen such interchange of state
Or state itself confounded to decay
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That time will come and take my love away

This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

(It's not my favorite poem, but it's Shakespeare, and I think people should memorize more poems, so it seems the right one for National Poetry Month. Also, my favorite poem is in German.)
posted by benito.strauss at 10:27 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dust of Snow
By Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
posted by skycrashesdown at 10:27 AM on April 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

This Charles Simic is better for Autumn

Emily's Theme

My dear trees, I no longer recognize you
In that wintry light.
You brought me a reminder I can do without:
The world is old, it was always old,
There's nothing new in it this afternoon.
The garden could've been a padlocked window
Of a pawnshop I was studying
With every item in it dust-covered.

Each one of my thoughts was being ghostwritten
By anonymous authors. Each time they hit
A cobwebbed typewriter key, I shudder.
Luckily, dark came quickly today.
Soon the neighbors were burning leaves,
And perhaps a few other things too.
Later, I saw the children run around the fire,
Their faces demonic in its flames
posted by bleary at 10:41 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Giraffe by Ron Padgett

The 2 f's
in giraffe
are like
2 giraffes
running through
the word giraffe

The 2 f's
run through giraffe
like 2 giraffes
posted by pb (staff) at 10:51 AM on April 1, 2016 [14 favorites]

I romp with joy in the bookish dark
posted by aramaic at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go

From "The Layers," by Stanley Kunitz
posted by drlith at 11:03 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

An excuse to quote George Oppen? Oh hell yeah. Here, have two:


Parked in the fields
All night
So many years ago,
We saw
A lake beside us
When the moon rose.
I remember

Leaving that ancient car
Together. I remember
Standing in the white grass
Beside it. We groped
Our way together
Downhill in the bright
Incredible light

Beginning to wonder
Whether it could be lake
Or fog
We saw, our heads
Ringing under the stars we walked
To where it would have wet our feet
Had it been water

Veritas sequitur ...
In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down—
That they are there!
Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass
The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.
Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
Of sun
The small nouns
Crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.
posted by dersins at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

...and some bonus Robert Creeley:


Locate I
love you
where in

teeth and
eyes, bite
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

love you


then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full

of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth.
posted by dersins at 11:16 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Wasteland
.....in gifs

posted by maryr at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Three poems memorized, all happen to be by Irish poets:


Straight on my mouth
another man’s kiss.
He put his tongue
between my lips.
I was numb
and said to him
“Little man, go home
you’re drunk
your wife waits at the door.”

But when I recall
your kiss
I shake, and all
that lies
between my hips
liquifies to milk.

-- Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

....And then two by Yeats:


Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


The fascination of what's difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There's something ails our colt
That must, as if it had not holy blood
Nor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day's war with every knave and dolt,
Theatre business, management of men.
I swear before the dawn comes round again
I'll find the stable and pull out the bolt.


....Yeats may have been a poet, but he also founded the Abbey Theater in Dublin and wrote some plays himself; they're....quite experimental, and so he no doubt got some pushback from production designers or actors or audiences about what the hell he was doing. Some of the other stuff done at the Abbey also got some pushback; at the premiere of one of Sean O'Casey's plays, the sight of a woman hanging out at a bar in one scene caused a near-revolt in the audience, and they had to bring down the curtain. Yeats was the artistic director, so he was sent out to speak to the crowd - but instead of calming them down, he lectured them all for being stuck-up prudes, which just made things worse.

So what I'm saying is, I am quite sure that I know from a visceral level the mood that Yeats was in when he wrote the line "My curse on plays/that have to be set up in fifty ways...." I actually would mutter that line to myself as an oath when I was in a long and frustrating rehearsal. I also kept a copy in my stage managers' notebook so if I ever saw an actor who seemed to be having a really rough day, I could take them aside during a break and say "here, you may dig this." They'd read it, and invariably when they got to that line they would start nodding and chuckling, and they'd feel much better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

We have been underground too long,
we have done our work,
we are many and one,
we remember when we were human.

We have lived among roots and stones,
we have sung but no one has listened,
we come into the open air at night only to love

which disgusts the soles of boots,
their leather strict religion.

We know what a boot looks like
when seen from underneath,
we know the philosophy of boots,
their metaphysic of kicks and ladders.
We are afraid of boots
but contemptuous of the foot that needs them.

Soon we will invade like weeds,
everywhere but slowly;
the captive plants will rebel
with us, fences will topple,
brick walls ripple and fall,

there will be no more boots.
Meanwhile we eat dirt
and sleep; we are waiting
under your feet.

When we say Attack
you will hear nothing
at first.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:48 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

- Jane Kenyon

This has made me incredibly happy.
posted by CMcG at 11:52 AM on April 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

“Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night,
The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?
Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons
And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,
The booze and the neon and Saturday night?”
A.E. Stallings, Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther
posted by Going To Maine at 12:16 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

There are minor variations all over the place, but I like this version of the anonymous Middle English poem best:

O westron wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.
posted by angiep at 12:25 PM on April 1, 2016 [11 favorites]

I love so many poems that this is a hard one to answer. I will share with you the "poetry" tag on my pinboard, although it contains only a fraction of poems I would call favorites.

I love this poem by Antler, which is both a celebration of poetry and a celebration of sexuality. And the glorious affirmation of sexuality as god-given. "If God doesn't like to watch boys jack off as much as boys like to watch themselves jack off, he doesn't exist," indeed. I long for something as powerful and joyous that is not so boy-centered.

What Every Boy Knows
by Antler

Every boy knows what its like
when he's really alone,
When it's safe to jack off with a passion,
When it's safe to take off his clothes
and prance around
And parade his lubricating cock
before every mirror in the house,
Safe to cry out and talk dirty
while jerking it,
Really scream "I'm coming!"
when he comes,
Really stand on his head
and jack off in his face
if he wants,
Yes, every boy knows
when it’s safe.

At the country picnic the 12 year old boy
wanders off by himself in the woods,
he knows the perfect spot,
On his study-hall break to the library
the 13 year old stops in the empty john,
just enough time for a quickie,
The 14 year old boyscout waits until he's sure
everyone in the tent is sleeping,
quietly, slowly he plays with his dream,
The 15 year old boy runs home from school,
half-way he's already hard,
His heart is pounding
when he opens the front door,
He knows he's got a full hour
before his sister or parents return,
Enough time to give himself
a real workout in the bathtub
The 16 year old wakes up in the snowy night,
he watches himself with a flashlight
magically masturbate under the comforter,
The 17 year old puts Leaves of Grass aside,
leans back on the chair with his feet on the wall
in the basement at home where he studies,
He likes poetry, but right now
he needs a really good handjob
before he can continue . . . .
No one can see me now, the boy chuckles to himself,
And I'm not fool enough anymore to think God
is watching horrified
and will sentence me to hell.
If God doesn't love to watch boys jack off
as much as boys love to watch themselves jack off
he doesn't exist.
The 18 year old boy licks his lips
as he jacks off in the hayloft,
If anyone saw me they'd think I was nuts
he thinks as he squirms and groans,
His devilish lasciviousness to make love to himself
makes the monkeys at the zoo seem prudes.
There's no posture, no expression on his face,
no possible method of touch he won't try
to make it feel more Wow.
The voluptuous 19 year old youth knows
he's got the whole beach to himself today,
He basks naked in the sun till baked,
then floating on the bosom of the lake
gives himself the best handjob of his life.
The 20 year old mountainclimber still likes to masturbate
when he's on top of a mountain alone,
He never tells anyone about it, it's a secret
he keeps to himself,
He still smiles remembering the first time
he jacked off from a cliff,
The ecstatic boyhood semen spurting and spurting,
tumbling thousands of feet
into the wild valley below . . . .
posted by not that girl at 12:30 PM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s daisy.
It’s a roller-skating, scissor-grinding day;
It’s gingham-waisted, chocolate flavored, lazy,
With the children flower-scattered at their play.

It’s the sun like watermelon,
And the sidewalks overlaid
With a glaze of yellow yellow
Like a jar of marmalade.

It’s the mower gently mowing,
And the stars like startled glass,
While the mower keeps on going
Through a waterfall of grass.

Then the rich magenta evening
Like a sauce upon the walk,
And the porches softly swinging
With a hammockful of talk.

It’s the hobo at the corner
With his lilac-sniffing gait,
And the shy departing thunder
Of the fast departing skate.

It’s lemonade, it’s lemonade, it’s April!
A water sprinkler, puddle winking time,
When a boy who peddles slowly,
With a smile remote and holy,
Sells you April, chocolate flavored, for a dime.

posted by magstheaxe at 12:33 PM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh for a book and a shady nook,
Either indoors or out,
with the green leaves whispering overhead,
or the street cries all about.
Where I may read at all my ease
both of the new and old,
For a jolly good book whereon to look
is better to me than gold.

posted by magstheaxe at 12:34 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

And do you all know Unit of Measure by Sandra Beasley?

All can be measured by the standard of the capybara.
Everyone is lesser than or greater than the capybara.
Everything is taller or shorter than the capybara.
Everything is mistaken for a Brazilian dance craze
more or less frequently than the capybara.
Everyone eats greater or fewer watermelons
than the capybara. Everyone eats more or less bark.
Everyone barks more than or less than the capybara,
who also whistles, clicks, grunts, and emits what is known
as his alarm squeal. Everyone is more or less alarmed
than a capybara, who—because his back legs
are longer than his front legs—feels like
he is going downhill at all times.
Everyone is more or less a master of grasses
than the capybara. Or going by the scientific name,
more or less Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
or, going by the Greek translation, more or less
water hog. Everyone is more or less
of a fish than the capybara, defined as the outermost realm
of fishdom by the 16th-century Catholic Church.
Everyone is eaten more or less often for Lent than
the capybara. Shredded, spiced, and served over plantains,
everything tastes more or less like pork
than the capybara. Before you decide that you are
greater than or lesser than a capybara, consider
that while the Brazilian capybara breeds only once a year,
the Venezuelan variety mates continuously.
Consider the last time you mated continuously.
Consider the year of your childhood when you had
exactly as many teeth as the capybara—
twenty—and all yours fell out, and all his
kept growing. Consider how his skin stretches
in only one direction. Accept that you are stretchier
than the capybara. Accept that you have foolishly
distributed your eyes, ears, and nostrils
all over your face. Accept that now you will never be able
to sleep underwater. Accept that the fish
will never gather to your capybara body offering
their soft, finned love. One of us, they say, one of us,
but they will not say it to you.
posted by not that girl at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2016 [19 favorites]

Moving Water

When you do things from your soul,
you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

When actions come from another section,
the feeling disappears.

Don't let others lead you.
They may be blind or, worse, vultures.

Reach for the rope of God.
And what is that?
Putting aside self-will.
Because of willfulness people sit in jail,
the trapped bird's wings are tied,
fish sizzle in the skillet.

The anger of police is willfulness.
You've seen a magistrate inflict visible punishment.
Now see the invisible.

If you could leave your selfishness,
you would see how you've been torturing your soul.
We are born and live inside black water in a well.
How could we know what an open field of sunlight is?

Don't insist on going where you think you want to go.
Ask the way to the spring.
Your living pieces will form a harmony.

There is a moving palace that floats in the air with balconies
and clear water flowing through,
infinity everywhere,
yet contained under a single tent.

- Rumi
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Richard Brautigan, Your Catfish Friend

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,"
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”
posted by pecanpies at 1:06 PM on April 1, 2016 [10 favorites]

Call me a philistine, but all my favourite lines come straight from The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner:
The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.
At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

quoth he and whistled innocently thrice
posted by comealongpole at 1:06 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh. OH. OH my.

It's way too long to list here, but - here is the entire series of poems by Shel Silverstein, about the Devil and Billy Markham. I first heard of these via a theater company; they were trying to pick a show to do for their next production, and someone brought this in; it's meant to be a one-man show, a recitation of the whole series of five poems in sequence, and we started out asking one of the guys to read "just a little of it" - and it was so wonderful that all four guys in the room took turns in sequence and they read the whole thing out loud. I still think that would be an awesome staging, something loose and informal like it's three guys at a bar who've all gotten together to swap stories. (I eventually saw someone else do it at a Fringe Festival later.)

If all you know about Shel Silverstein is the "giving tree" kind of children's stuff....read this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

I keep coming back to this one, recently, and it's springy.


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.
posted by maryr at 1:25 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Call me a philistine, but all my favourite lines come straight from The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

My dad loves this poem and quotes it a lot. Once when I tried to sneak into the house when I got home after curfew, he was already sitting on the porch waiting in the dark, and just when my hand touched the door he bellowed, "And now the storm blast came, and he was tyrannous and strong!"
posted by barchan at 1:39 PM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


We will kill our love.

We will strangle it
as one strangles a baby.
We will kick it
as one kicks a faithful dog.

We will tear out
its live wings
as one does it
to a bird.

We will shoot it in the heart
as one shoots

—Anna Świrszczyńska, trans. Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan
posted by misteraitch at 1:56 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


posted by the bricabrac man at 2:12 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

A Song on the End of the World
by Czeslaw Milosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:14 PM on April 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, wait, I have so many favorite poems, but if I had to pick, it might be Tithonus by Tennyson. It's kind of long, but here's the first stanza, and full poem can be found here:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-hair'd shadow roaming like a dream
The ever-silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:22 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

-Lord Byron

O pointy birds,
O pointy pointy.
Anoint my head,

-John Lillison, England's greatest one-armed poet
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:28 PM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

In memory yet green, in joy still felt,
these scenes of life rise sharply into view;
we triumph, life's disasters are undealt,
and while all else is old, the world is new.
posted by librosegretti at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Was A Man
by Philip Booth

Was a man, was a two-
faced man, pretended
he wasn't who he was,
who, in a men's room,
faced his hung-over
face in a mirror hung
over the towel rack.
The mirror was cracked.
Shaving close in that
looking glass, he nicked
his throat, bled blue
blood, grabbed a new
towel to patch the wrong
scratch, knocked off
the mirror and, facing
himself, almost intact,
in final terror hung
the wrong face back.
posted by ezust at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

- Robert W Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee (first of 14 verses).
posted by scalefree at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2016 [9 favorites]

Back in 2006, I had the luxury of waking up around when The Writer's Almanac aired, and I saved my favorites. From them, my favorite lines:

Still, they keep launching blundering campaigns,
    Trying their wings once more in hopeless flight:
Blind moths against the wires of window screens.
    Anything. Anything for a fix of light.
"Street Moths," by X.J. Kennedy from The Lords of Misrule

That's the best one with lines that stand alone.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:26 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

.... Anything. Anything for a fix of light.
"Street Moths," by X.J. Kennedy from The Lords of Misrule

posted by filthy light thief at 16:26 on April 1

Eponysterical! :D

PS: Thanks, flt. It's beautiful and now I'm going to find some more.
posted by angiep at 3:46 PM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

What Next

"So the sun is shining blindingly but I can sort of see.
It’s like looking at Mandela’s moral beauty.
The dying leaves are sizzling on the trees
In a shirtsleeves summer breeze.

But daylight saving is over.
And gaveling the courtroom to order with a four-leaf clover
Is over. And it’s altogether November.
And the Pellegrino bubbles rise to the surface and dismember."

posted by clavdivs at 4:03 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

What the Living Do
by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember
posted by ActionPopulated at 4:04 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                              i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

E. E. Cummings
posted by kimberussell at 6:02 PM on April 1, 2016 [8 favorites]

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:03 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?

Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me.


Give them me. Give them me.


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them.


I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.

posted by Night_owl at 6:12 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)

The same gentleman who wooed me with Neruda responded well to my wooing him with cummings.

And a classic:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:16 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Here, Bullet
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I like how on April Fools Day we're doing somber poetry about mortality and lost love.
posted by bleep at 7:17 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold friction of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.'

TS Eliot, from Little Gidding, The Four Quartets
posted by Oyéah at 7:52 PM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a file full of hundreds of poems, and a commonplace book almost full up with them, so of course I couldn't leave only one comment in this thread. Here's another favorite of mine:

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you're tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren't alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren't alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.

Albert Goldfarth, "The Sciences Sing a Lullaby"
posted by yasaman at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2016 [10 favorites]

Year One

I was still standing
on a northern corner--

Moonlit winter clouds the color of the desperation of wolves.

of your existence? There is nothing

- Franz Wright and the answer to a 2010 AskMe question of mine
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:26 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Awesome idea! Quick plug for the April Is Tumblr - she posts a poem every day for national poetry month and has been doing it for years so there's a huge archive. I love her taste.

Frank O'Hara

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days
posted by aka burlap at 9:14 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Crunch

too much
too little

too fat
too thin
or nobody.

laughter or


strangers with faces like
the backs of
thumb tacks

armies running through
streets of blood

waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking

an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of M. Monroe.

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock

people so tired
either by love or no love.

people just are not good to each other
one on one.

the rich are not good to the rich
the poor are not good to the poor.

we are afraid.

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn't told us
about the gutters

or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place

unspoken to

watering a plant.

people are not good to each other.
people are not good to each other.

people are not good to each other.

I suppose they never will be.
I don't ask them to be.

but sometimes I think about

the beads will swing
the clouds will cloud

and the killer will behead the child
like taking a bite out of an ice cream cone.

too much
too little

too fat
too thin

or nobody

more haters than lovers.

people are not good to each other.
perhaps if they were
our deaths would not be so sad.

meanwhile I look at young girls
flowers of chance.

there must be a way.

surely there must be a way that we have not yet
thought of.

who put this brain inside of me?

it cries
it demands
it says that there is a chance.

it will not say

--Charles Bukowski
posted by sevenofspades at 10:06 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Little Furnace

—Once more the poem woke me up,
the dark poem. I was ready for it;
he was sleeping,

and across the cabin, the small furnace
lit and re-lit itself—the flame a yellow
“tongue” again, the metal benignly
hard again;

and a thousand insects outside called
and made me nothing;
moonlight streamed inside as if it had been ...

I looked around, I thought of the lower wisdom,
spirit held by matter:
Mary, white as a sand dollar,

and Christ, his sticky halo tilted—
oh, to get behind it!
The world had been created to comprehend itself

as matter: table, the torn
veils of spiders ... Even consciousness—
missing my love—

was matter, the metal box of a furnace.
As the obligated flame, so burned my life ...

What is the meaning of this suffering I asked
and the voice—not Christ but between us—
said you are the meaning.

No no, I replied, That
is the shape, what is the meaning.
You are the meaning, it said—

-Brenda Hillman
posted by chicainthecity at 10:33 PM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Two excerpts, both from Ashbery:

Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.
("Meditations in an Emergency," 1957)

Once, out on the water in the clear, early nineteenth-century twilight,
you asked time to suspend its flight. If wishes could beget more than sobs,
that would be my wish for you, my darling, my angel. But other
principles prevail in this glum haven, don't they? If that's what it is.

Then the wind fell of its own accord.
We went out and saw that it had actually happened.
The season stood motionless, alert. How still the dropp was
on the burr I know not. I come all
packaged and serene, yet I keep losing things.
("Poem at the New Year," 1992)

Fantastic use of MeTa, btw. And thanks for sharing, folks: there's some killer stuff here that I've never heard of!
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 11:23 PM on April 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

We are pressed, pressed on each other,
We will be told at once
Of anything that happens

And the discovery of fact bursts
In a paroxysm of emotion
Now as always. Crusoe

We say was
So we have chosen


Now in the helicopters the casual will
Is atrocious

Insanity in high places,
If it is true we must do these things
We must cut our throats

The fly in the bottle

Insane, the insane fly

Which, over the city
Is the bright light of shipwreck
(excerpts from George Oppen's 'Of Being Numerous')

Other favourites include, in no particular order:
Ashbery's Flow Chart
Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Bob Kaufman's All Those Ships That Never Sailed
Paul Schmidt's Translation of Rimbaud's Enfance
posted by juv3nal at 12:53 AM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Theodore Roethke
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:34 AM on April 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

I wish it was thanksgiving so I could say I'm thankful for this thread. I've been away from poetry for so long. The poem gauche posted, Grace by Jake Adam York made me realize an unintended consequence of deciding not to have children is that I'll have no one to pass recipes down to, and oh lord, I hurt, hurt in a way I'd never realized. Damn.

Thank you, though, seriously.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:54 AM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

And also:

You Can Have It

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labors, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time

with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.

In 1948 in the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,

for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds,
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.

The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,

and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.

Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:04 AM on April 2, 2016 [9 favorites]

A nasty surprise in a sandwich,
A drawing-pin caught in your sock,
The limpest of shakes from a hand which
You’d thought would be firm as a rock,

A serious mistake in a nightie,
A grave disappointment all round
Is all that you’ll get from th’ Almighty,
Is all that you’ll get underground.

Oh he said: ‘If you lay off the crumpet
I’ll see you alright in the end.
Just hang on until the last trumpet.
Have faith in me, chum – I’m your friend.’

But if you remind him, he’ll tell you:
‘I’m sorry, I must have been pissed –
Though your name rings a sort of a bell. You
Should have guessed that I do not exist.

‘I didn’t exist at Creation,
I didn’t exist at the Flood,
And I won’t be around for Salvation
To sort out the sheep from the cud –

‘Or whatever the phrase is. The fact is
In soteriological terms
I’m a crude existential malpractice
And you are a diet of worms.

‘You’re a nasty surprise in a sandwich.
You’re a drawing-pin caught in my sock.
You’re the limpest of shakes from a hand which
I’d have thought would be firm as a rock,

‘You’re a serious mistake in a nightie,
You’re a grave disappointment all round-
That’s all you are’, says th’ Almighty,
‘And that’s all that you’ll be underground.’

- James Fenton, 'God, A Poem'
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:32 AM on April 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Another Neruda:

Sick Man in the Sun

What would it profit you, now as good as dead, if Monday came
round again, ripe as a kiss, woven with sun,
loosened its place in the sky
and aimed its full force at your worsening crisis?

You rose in your illness
and the bitter foreknowledge
at whose end the impassable
tunnel, dark with its final proscriptions,
awaits you: your heart's
silence, or some other
visceral menace
that hurts with its certain farewells;
your eyes closed, you delivered yourself
to your pain, gust after gust, like a wind.

Today, disinterred from your bed,
you see such unboundable light in the air
and you think: yes, should you die on such a day,
not only would nothing have happened,
but no festival would ever have equaled
the measure of this one, the heyday of your burial.
posted by Panthalassa at 7:47 AM on April 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eating Together By Li-Young Lee

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.
posted by Mouse Army at 8:00 AM on April 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

-Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill
posted by colfax at 9:13 AM on April 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
posted by colfax at 9:22 AM on April 2, 2016 [12 favorites]

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — 

over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.
posted by colfax at 12:43 PM on April 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Another one: (I can swipe from my profile forever, though this post will continue to grow it.)

This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That
and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That
O it is This
and it is Thus
and it is Them
and it is Us
and it is Now
and Here It is
and Here We are
so This is It
James Broughton, This is It
posted by Going To Maine at 2:22 PM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

There is an ancient Egyptian poem with the line "when I am with you, I am happy, even without beer." Those poets were onto something.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 PM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

One more, from "The Meaning of Birds" by Charlie Smith:

...it is not news that we live in a world
where beauty is unexplainable
and suddenly ruined
and has its own routines. We are often far
from home in a dark town, and our griefs
are difficult to translate into a language
understood by others.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

And another...

The Pope's Penis, by Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat — and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.

(Some friends and I saw Sharon Olds read when we were in high school and, being the smartasses we were, asked her how she came to write the pope's penis poem. She told us that she and her editors went back and forth as to how appropriate the poem was for her collection; in her exact words "the pope's penis went in and out of that book many times." Bless her so much for indulging us.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:19 PM on April 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


In 1972 I crossed Kansas on a bus
with a dog apparently pursue to skinniness
painted on its side, an emblem
not entirely inappropriate, considering
those of us availing ourselves
of its services---tossed
like rattles in a baby's hand,
sleeping the sleep of the ashamed
and the niggardly, crying out
or keeping our council as we raced over the land,
flailing at dreams
or lying still. And I woke to see
the prairie, seized by the cold and the early hour,
continually falling away beside us, and a fire
burning furiously in the dark: a house
posted about by tiny figures---
fireman; and a family
who might have been calling out to God
just then for a witness.

But more than witness, I remember now
something I could only have imagined
that night: the sound of the reigns breaking
the bones in the farmer's hands
as the horses reared and flew back into the flames
he wanted to take them away from.
My thoughts are like that,
turning and going back where nothing wants them,
where the door opens and a road
of light falls through it
from behind you and pain
starts to whisper with your voice;
where you stand inside your own absence,
your eyes still smoky from dreaming,
the ruthless iron press
of love and failure making
a speechless church out of your dark
and invisible face.

-Denis Johnson
posted by but no cigar at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower (Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29)
by Rainer Maria Rilke (as translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Bowers)

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
posted by gudrun at 5:54 PM on April 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

by Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, not seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then ---
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical,
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait's begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.
posted by frumiousb at 8:37 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Publication Date

One of the few pleasures of writing
is the thought of one’s book in the hands of a kind-hearted
intelligent person somewhere. I can’t remember what the
others are right now.
I just noticed that it is my own private

National I Hate Myself and Want to Die Day
(which means the next day I will love my life
and want to live forever). The forecast calls
for a cold night in Boston all morning

and all afternoon. They say
tomorrow will be just like today,
only different. I’m in the cemetery now
at the edge of town, how did I get here?

A sparrow limps past on its little bone crutch saying
I am Federico Garcia Lorca
risen from the dead–
literature will lose, sunlight will win, don’t worry.

—Franz Wright
posted by ferret branca at 9:04 PM on April 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Way back when, I wrote on my personal home page that I was looking for a complete copy of John Seawright's poem "I Broke My Saw". John Seawright found it (by searching himself, he confessed) and emailed me the poem:

Tell Lil Jill and Tina stay away from my house
I broke my saw I can't come out
I went and broke it
I broke my saw

They act like I'm simple say what am I talking about
Just Sunday morning I was up and fine
Out on the porch with a bowl of wine
Then I broke my saw
Now all I do is have it on my mind

Folks need a saw cutting square or round
Any way they can getting back from town
I broke my saw
I broke it
Broke the saw locked all my business down

Man needs a saw way down some wood
In doing somebody *else* some good
Turn round and break it
Way I broke *my* saw
You won't head home near half the way you could.

You'll miss that saw when you bust your bed
Laid up in the house like a quarter to dead
I know I miss mine
I miss that saw
Sometimes I wish I'd broke my back instead.
posted by atropos at 10:53 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

There has been some love for Gerard Manley Hopkins in this thread already, but I am mighty fond of "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection" not only for its title, but also for the end

But vastness blurs and time beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; world's wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

which never fails to raise the hair on my neck. Even if I can't do the layout justice here.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 AM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think I may have even come across this on MeFi. Poetry is not really my jam, but this one has stuck with me for the last couple years.

and I think of each life as a flower, as
as a field daisy, and as singular,

When Death Comes, Mary Oliver
posted by solotoro at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sometimes its this:
Here! is this you on the top of Fan-kuo Mountain,
Wearing a huge hat in the noon-day sun?
How thin, how wretchedly thin, you have grown!
You must have been suffering from poetry again.


And sometimes its that:
Half-blind with blows the boy stood there; he seemed to swoon and sway;
Then in that moment woke the soul of little Jean Desprez.
He saw the woods go sheening down; the larks were singing clear;
And oh! the scents and sounds of spring, how sweet they were! how dear!
He felt the scent of new-mown hay, a soft breeze fanned his brow;
O God! the paths of peace and toil! How precious were they now!
The summer days and summer ways, how bright with hope and bliss!
The autumn such a dream of gold . . . and all must end in this:
This shining rifle in his hand, that shambles all around;
The Zouave there with dying glare; the blood upon the ground;
The brutal faces round him ringed, the evil eyes aflame;
That Prussian bully standing by, as if he watched a game.
"Make haste and shoot," the Major sneered; "a minute more I give;
A minute more to kill your friend, if you yourself would live."

They only saw a bare-foot boy, with blanched and twitching face;
They did not see within his eyes the glory of his race;
The glory of a million men who for fair France have died,
The splendour of self-sacrifice that will not be denied.
Yet . . . he was but a peasant lad, and oh! but life was sweet. . . .
"Your minute's nearly gone, my lad," he heard a voice repeat.
"Shoot! Shoot!" the dying Zouave moaned; "Shoot! Shoot!" the soldiers said.
Then Jean Desprez reached out and shot . . . THE PRUSSIAN MAJOR DEAD!

Robert Service
posted by ridgerunner at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
(we were 15 when Mrs Taylor introduced to Wilfred Owen)
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

I used to have an exercise book where I would copy in words, fragments, snippets, and parts of poems when I was a teenager.

Here is a new person I've discovered Ijeoma Umebinyuo

‘So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
Never enough for both’


"Do you return from love
as yourself or as another?
I asked.
It seems there are still women
I have to become
to understand the woman I was."

Ijeoma Umebinyuo
posted by infini at 12:04 PM on April 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

I was a dog in my former life, a very good
dog, and, thus, I was promoted to a human being.
I liked being a dog. I worked for a poor farmer
guarding and herding his sheep. Wolves and coyotes
tried to get past me almost every night, and not
once did I lose a sheep. the farmer rewarded me
with good food, food from his table. He may have
been poor, but he ate well. and his children
played with me, when they weren’t in school or
working in the field. I had all the love any dog
could hope for. When I got old, they got a new
dog, and I trained him in the tricks of the trade.
He quickly learned, and the farmer brought me into
the house to live with them. I brought the farmer
his slippers in the morning, as he was getting
old, too. I was dying slowly, a little bit at a
time. The farmer knew this and would bring the
new dog in to visit me from time to time. The
new dog would entertain me with his flips and
flops and nuzzles. And then one morning I just
didn’t get up. They gave me a fine burial down
by the stream under a shade tree. That was the
end of my being a dog. Sometimes I miss it so
I sit by the window and cry. I live in a high-rise
that looks out at a bunch of other high-rises.
At my job I work in a cubicle and barely speak
to anyone all day. This is my reward for being
a good dog. The human wolves don’t even see me.
They fear me not.
--James Tate
posted by hototogisu at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Unit of Measure by Sandra Beasley

All can be measured by the standard of the capybara.
Everyone is lesser than or greater than the capybara.
Everything is taller or shorter than the capybara.
Everything is mistaken for a Brazilian dance craze
more or less frequently than the capybara...

posted by MsMolly at 3:47 PM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine;
"O where shall I get a skeely skipper
To sail this ship or mine?"

Then up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King's right knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea."

The King has written a broad letter,
And sealed it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

"To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway o'er the foam;
The King's daughter of Noroway,
'Tis thou must fetch her home."

The first line that Sir Patrick read,
A loud laugh laughed he;
The next line that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his ee.

"O who is this has done this deed,
Has told the King of me,
To send us out at this time of the year,
To sail upon the sea?

"Be it wind, be it wet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship must sail the foam;
The king's daughter of Noroway,
'Tis we must fetch her home."

They hoisted their sails on Monenday morn,
With all the speed they may;
And they have landed in Noroway
Upon a Wodensday

They had not been a week, a week,
In Noroway but twae,
When that the lords of Noroway
Began aloud to say, -

"Ye Scottishmen spend all our King's gowd,
And all our Queenis fee."
"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liars loud!
So loud I hear ye lie.

"For I brought as much of the white monie
As gane my men and me,
And a half-fou of the good red gowd
Out o'er the sea with me.

"Make ready, make ready, my merry men all,
Our good ship sails the morn."
"Now, ever alack, my master dear
I fear a deadly storm.

"I saw the new moon late yestreen
With the old moon in her arm;
And if we go to sea, master,
I fear we'll come to harm."

They had not sailed a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The ankers brake and the top-masts lap,
It was such a deadly storm;
And the waves came o'er the broken ship
Till all her sides were torn.

"O where will I get a good sailor
Will take my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall top-mast
To see if I can spy land?"

"O here am I, a sailor good,
Will take the helm in hand,
Till you go up to the tall top-mast,
But I fear you'll ne'er spy land."

He had not gone a step, a step,
A step but barely ane,
When a bolt flew out of the good ship's side,
And the salt sea came in.

"Go fetch a web of the silken cloth,
Another of the twine,
And wap them into our good ship's side,
And let not the sea come in."

They fetched a web of the silken cloth,
Another of the twine,
And they wapp'd them into the good ship's side,
But still the sea came in.

O loth, both, were our good Scots lords
To wet their cork-heel'd shoon,
But long ere all the play was play'd
They wet their hats aboon.

And many was the feather-bed
That fluttered on the foam;
And many was the good lord's son
That never more came home.

The ladies wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their heair,
All for the sake of their true loves,
For them they'll see nae mair.

O lang, lang may the maidens sit
With their gold combs in their hair,
All waiting for their own dear loves,
For them they'll see nae mair.

O forty miles of Aberdeen,
'Tis fifty fathoms deep;
And there lies good Sir Patrick Spens,
With the Scots lords at his feet.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:39 PM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Written by Richard Brautigan in 1950, at age 15.

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace
I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.
posted by Oyéah at 9:48 PM on April 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Somehow We Survive

Somehow we survive
and tenderness, frustrated, does not wither.
Investigating searchlights rake
our naked, unprotected contours;
over our heads the monolithic decalogue
of fascist prohibition glowers
and teeters for a catastrophic fall;
boots club the peeling door.
But somehow we survive
severance, deprivation, loss.
Patrols uncoil along the asphalt dark
hissing their menace to our lives,
most cruel, all our land is scarred with terror,
rendered unlovely and unlovable;
sundered are we and all our passionate surrender
but somehow tenderness survives.

-Dennis Brutus
posted by clavdivs at 10:36 PM on April 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have many, many favorites. Here's one.

"Musee des Beaux Arts" by W. H. Auden

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.
posted by torridly at 10:26 AM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

One bell wouldn't ring loud enough.
So they beat the bell to hell, Max,
with an axe, show it who's boss,
boss. Me, I dreamt I dwelt in
someplace one could relax
but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
You got a song, man, sing it.
You got a bell, man, ring it.

Old Story - Robert Creeley
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:21 AM on April 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Edwin Arlington Robinson
posted by SLC Mom at 9:02 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

she is beautiful.
i am drawn to her.
she is kind.
she never tells me "there is no time". she never says "No!"
and i think about her
every time
i fuck you.

- Henry Rollins
posted by softlord at 9:44 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

A second Patchen:

“Can’t seem to wake you, kid, guess it
put you to sleep getting cut in two
        I wonder what my mother will say
To hell with your old lady, kid, it’s you dead
like you read about beind dead
in the schoolbooks with medals all over
your chest and all the girls saying
Boy is he ever something on that big white horse
hell’s fire a hero dying for his ahem country
        What is my country?
And all the fine buildings with flags fluttering
thataboy some class a first-rate bloke
with bubbles of blood in his hair
There are a lot of jails in America…a lot of poor boys
trying to get somewhere.

Hello, kid
still dead?
        I had a lot to do a lot to see
Kenneth Patchen, The Body Beside the Ties
posted by Going To Maine at 11:47 PM on April 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

"Separation," by W. S. Merwin
posted by KingEdRa at 5:32 AM on April 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

I have always loved this one in particular by W. Whitman...

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars
posted by foxhat10 at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Come Thunder"
Christopher Okigbo

Now that the triumphant march has entered the last street corners,
Remember, O dancers, the thunder among the clouds…

Now that laughter, broken in two, hangs tremulous between the teeth,
Remember, O Dancers, the lightning beyond the earth…

The smell of blood already floats in the lavender-mist of the afternoon.
The death sentence lies in ambush along the corridors of power;
And a great fearful thing already tugs at the cables of the open air,
A nebula immense and immeasurable, a night of deep waters—
An iron dream unnamed and unprintable, a path of stone.

The drowsy heads of the pods in barren farmlands witness it,
The homesteads abandoned in this century’s brush fire witness it:
The myriad eyes of deserted corn cobs in burning barns witness it:
Magic birds with the miracle of lightning flash on their feathers…

The arrows of God tremble at the gates of light,
The drums of curfew pander to a dance of death;

And the secret thing in its heaving
Threatens with iron mask
The last lighted torch of the century...
posted by sallybrown at 8:22 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Send me a leaf, but from a little tree
That grows no nearer your house
Than half an hour away. For then
You will have to walk, you will get strong and I
Shall thank you for the pretty leaf.

"Send Me a Leaf"
Bertolt Brecht
transl. David Constantine
posted by sallybrown at 8:23 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

old pond
frog jumps in

Basho, translated by Anne Carson
posted by sallybrown at 8:24 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

Emily Dickinson
posted by sallybrown at 8:26 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

I sometimes think that never blows so red,
The rose, as where some buried Caesar bled,
And every hyacinth the garden wears
Dropped to her lap from some, once lovely head.

Omar Khyyam
posted by Oyéah at 9:30 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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