I dip my hands in April among your faces tender April 22, 2019 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Three years ago I asked us to post about our favorite poems in honor of national poetry month. It would be wonderful if you could post additional favorite poems today. I'd also like it if anyone who needs a poem on a particular subject could request one and if we could try to find them something that fits the bill.

- poems you have composed are welcome.
- poems that are in the other thread but deserve another read are welcome.
- things that barely qualify as poems in your mind but just make you think, ah, poetry, are welcome.
- bonus points if you find a way to tie it to a metatalktail from the past year.

From the title of this post:
On Arranging a Bowl of Violets
Grace Hazard Conkling, 1878 - 1958

I dip my hands in April among your faces tender,
O woven of blue air and ecstasies of light!
Breathed words of the Earth-Mother, although it is November,
You wing my soul with memories adorable and white.

I hear you call each other:
“Ah, Sweet, do you remember
The garden that we haunted—its spaces of delight?
The sound of running water—the day’s long lapse of splendor,
The winds that begged our fragrance and loved us in the night?”
posted by CMcG to MetaFilter-Related at 10:28 AM (119 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

The Sacred, by Stephen Dunn

After the teacher asked if anyone had
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank

in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing

things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,

their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person

who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need

to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.
posted by darchildre at 10:43 AM on April 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

Monet Refuses the Operation
Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
posted by oulipian at 10:45 AM on April 22, 2019 [18 favorites]

Will You? By Carrie Fountain

When, at the end, the children wanted
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no.

I said nope, no, no glitter, and then,
when they started to fuss, I found myself

saying something my brother’s football coach
used to bark from the sidelines when one

of his players showed signs of being
human: oh come on now, suck it up.

That’s what I said to my children.
Suck what up? my daughter asked,

and, because she is so young, I told her
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took

that for an answer. My children are so young
when I turn off the radio as the news turns

to counting the dead or naming the act,
they aren’t even suspicious. My children

are so young they cannot imagine a world
like the one they live in. Their God is still

a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly
of actions. And I think they think I work

for that God. And I know they will someday soon
see everything and they will know about

everything and they will no longer take
never mind for an answer. The valentines

would’ve been better with glitter, and my son
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much

later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter
realized she’d forgotten one of the three

Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are.

And so, before bed we took everything out
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—

and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair
parted smartly down the middle and wrote

WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.

[Link to Audio Recording]
posted by anya32 at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2019 [25 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 you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2019 [26 favorites]

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don't say
it's easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness
Mary Oliver

posted by kimberussell at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Telephone Booth (number 905 1/2)
By Pedro Pietri

woke up this morning
feeling excellent,
picked up the telephone
dialed the number of
my equal opportunity employer
to inform him I will not
be into work today
Are you feeling sick?
the boss asked me
No Sir I replied:
I am feeling too good
to report to work today,
if I feel sick tomorrow
I will come in early
posted by holmesian at 11:25 AM on April 22, 2019 [23 favorites]

For some reason I keep thinking the title of this is The River. It's not.

Do you give yourself to me utterly,
Body and no-body, flesh and no-flesh
Not as a fugitive, blindly or bitterly,
But as a child might, with no other wish?
Yes, utterly.

Then I shall bear you down my estuary,
Carry you and ferry you to burial mysteriously,
Take you and receive you,
Consume you, engulf you,
In the huge cave, my belly, lave you
With huger waves continually.

And you shall cling and clamber there
And slumber there, in that dumb chamber,
Beat with my blood's beat, hear my heart move
Blindly in bones that ride above you,
Delve in my flesh, dissolved and bedded,

Through viewless valves embodied so –
Till daylight, the expulsion and awakening,
The riving and the driving forth,
Life with remorseless forceps beckoning –
Pangs and betrayal of harsh birth.

Sleep, by Kenneth Slessor
posted by glasseyes at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Didn't understand the metatalk tail thing though
posted by glasseyes at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2019

Oh and also:

There Will Be Rest by Sara Teasdale

There will be rest, and sure stars shining
Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.
posted by darchildre at 11:58 AM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Poem After Carlos Drummond de Andrade by Marvin Bell

It's life that is hard: waking, sleeping, eating, loving, working and dying are easy.
It's life that suddenly fills both ears with the sound of that
symphony that forces your pulse to race and swells your
heart near to bursting.
It's life, not listening, that stretches your neck and opens your eyes
and brings you into the worst weather of the winter to
arrive once more at the house where love seemed to be in the air.

And it's life, just life, that makes you breathe deeply, in the air that
is filled with wood smoke and the dust of the factory,
because you hurried, and now your lungs heave and fall
with the nervous excitement of a leaf in spring breezes,
though it is winter and you are swallowing the dirt of
the town.
It isn't death when you suffer, it isn't death when you miss each
other and hurt for it, when you complain that isn't death,
when you fight with those you love, when you
misunderstand, when one line in a letter or one remark in
person ties one of you in knots, when the end seems near,
when you think you will die, when you wish you were
already dead -- none of that is death.
It's life, after all, that brings you a pain in the foot and a pain in the
hand, a sore throat, a broken heart, a cracked back, a torn
gut, a hole in your abdomen, an irritated stomach, a
swollen gland, a growth, a fever, a cough, a hiccup, a
sneeze, a bursting blood vessel in the temple.
It's life, not nerve ends, that puts the heartache on a pedestal and worships it.
It's life, and you can't escape it. It's life, and you asked for it. It's life,
and you won't be consumed by passion, you won't be
destroyed by self-destruction, you won't avoid it by
abstinence, you won't manage it by moderation, because
it's life -- life everywhere, life at all times -- and so you
won't be consumed by passion: you will be consumed
by life.

It's life that will consume you in the end, but in the meantime...
It's life that will eat you alive, but for now...
It's life that calls you to the street where the wood smoke hangs,
and the bare hint of a whisper of your name, but before
you go...

Too late: Life got its tentacles around you, its hooks into your heart,
and suddenly you come awake as if for the first time, and
you are standing in a part of the town where the air is
sweet -- your face flushed, your chest thumping, your
stomach a planet, your heart a planet, your every organ a
separate planet, all of it of a piece though the pieces turn
separately, O silent indications of the inevitable, as among
the natural restraints of winter and good sense, life blows
you apart in her arms.

Marvin Bell
posted by alathia at 12:06 PM on April 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Boxing the Female
by Natasha Le Bel

I saw myself inside again I saw
myself inside a box
which had no bottom, front
nor face only
sides, four, closing
in at right angles and me
crouching low
within the dark
I saw myself inside again I saw
myself a box inside
which kept me as I
grew and grew
too large and round for this or
did the box continue
to shrink and tighten
into a passionate
I saw inside again myself I saw
a box inside myself
I was open
and unclothed without
hair or
shadow to hide my
feminine geometry
which molds and holds
the woman I was then that I am
but it was so so dark where it was bare
where I was
uncovered lying undiscovered there
fragile and awkward in the iron emptiness
I began and I
coming out of myself again I am
coming into my form
my born body new and
gravid with musical sensuality
strong and proud
from deep inside this box I am
no longer kept I am no longer
held as precious token beauty
nor quiet prize nor secret pleasure I am
my own ugliness
outside this dark hard fist
of walls and corners crushing
my living mind, the blooming
human pattern of my chemistry
through pouring rocks of ferocious
that you impose I will
turn over
my bones inside my skin and
these walls with my song I will sing
my ripe real me out loud
with body and heart and brain
all beating against each other
in a heightening of passion and I am
this box for you for
myself I am the naked light inside
posted by alathia at 12:08 PM on April 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

e.e. cummings is my favorite poet.


a)s w(e loo)k
S a
rIvInG .gRrEaPsPhOs)
posted by alathia at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Schwinn, by Matthew Zapruder

I hate the phrase “inner life.” My attic hurts,
and I’d like to quit the committee
for naming tornadoes. Do you remember
how easy and sad it was to be young
and defined by our bicycles? My first
was yellow, and though it was no Black
Phantom or Sting-Ray but merely a Varsity
I loved the afternoon it was suddenly gone,
chasing its apian flash through the neighborhoods
with my father in vain. Like being a nuclear
family in a television show totally unaffected
by a distant war. Then we returned
to the green living room to watch the No Names
hold our Over the Hill Gang under
the monotinted chromatic defeated Super
Bowl waters. 1973, year of the Black Fly
caught in my Jell-O. Year of the Suffrage Building
on K Street NW where a few minor law firms
mingle proudly with the Union of Butchers
and Meat Cutters. A black hand
already visits my father in sleep, moving
up his spine to touch his amygdala. I will
never know a single thing anyone feels,
just how they say it, which is why I am standing
here exactly, covered in shame and lightning,
doing what I’m supposed to do.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 12:17 PM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

A neural net wrote the below:

My heart, why come you here alone?
The wild thing of my heart is grown
To be a thing,
Fairy, and wild, and fair, and whole
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 12:37 PM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I stumbled on the poem [Sickle, Star, Hammer] by Anitha Thampi on Lyrikline.org and I've been thinking about it quite a lot. As far as I can tell it's a fairly straightforward party political poem, as the symbol of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which is the dominant political party in Thampi's native Kerala, is a sickle, star and hammer symbol. I was surprised to like it, because I've basically been conditioned my whole life to not like poems which are that nakedly party political, but I guess I've softened. Anyway, here's the poem, translated by C. S. Venkiteswaran:

[Sickle, Star, Hammer]

joins the crescent
in the heavens.

to the eyes of children.

Hammer alone,
aching from
an unromantic genesis,
starts pounding
the iron nail heads
on which history
is yet to hang
as pictures
posted by Kattullus at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Anne Boyer's "A Romance of Happy Workers" is too long to quote in full, but here's the beginning:

In the beginning we will begin
with Woody and his ideological kiss.

I can't put Siberia down
but can't keep holding onto it.

His lips were a proletarian meditation
on May, all a battle between pathogens,

just those ordinary fears of newlyweds,
reformist or revolutionary. Saved

from drowning, I straddled
Woody on the Bolshevik mattress

and proposed like a furnace in August.
Not able to unite in a common struggle,

the marriage ended, a Trotsky and a mouse.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Good Bones
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,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
posted by yasaman at 12:57 PM on April 22, 2019 [39 favorites]

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:01 PM on April 22, 2019 [15 favorites]

Tom Wayman, "Routines"

After a while the body doesn't want to work.
When the alarm clock rings in the morning
the body refuses to get up. "You go to work if you're so keen,"
it says. "Me, I'm going back to sleep."
I have to nudge it in the ribs to get it out of bed.
If I had my way I'd just leave you here, I tell it
as it stands blinking. But I need you to carry your end of the load.

I take the body into the bathroom
intending to start the day as usual with a healthy dump.
But the body refuses to perform.
Come on, come on, I say between my teeth.
Produce, damn you. It's getting late.
"Listen, this is all your idea," the body says.
"If you want some turds so badly you provide 'em.
I'd just as soon be back in bed."
I give up, flush, wash and go make breakfast.
Pretty soon I'm at work. All goes smoothly enough
until the first break. I open my lunchpail
and start to munch on some cookies and milk.
"Cut that out," the body says, burping loudly.
"It's only a couple of hours since breakfast.
And two hours from this will be lunch, and two hours after that
will be the afternoon break. I'm not a machine
you can force-feed every two hours.
And it was the same yesterday, too...."
I hurriedly stuff an apple in its mouth to shut it up.

By four o'clock the body is tired
and even more surly. It will hardly speak to me
as I drive home. I bathe it, let it lounge around.
After supper it regains some of its good spirits.
But as soon as I get ready for bed it starts to make trouble.
Look, I tell it, I've explained this over and over.
I know it's only ten o'clock but we have to be up in eight hours.
If you don't get enough rest, you'll be dragging around all day
tomorrow again, cranky and irritable.
"I don't care," the body says. "It's too early.
When do I get to have any fun? If you want to sleep
go right ahead. I'm going to lie here wide awake
until I feel good and ready to pass out."

It is hours before I manage to convince it to fall asleep.
And only a few hours after that the alarm clock sounds again.
"Must be for you," the body murmurs. "You answer it."
The body rolls over. Furious, and without saying a word,
I grab one of its feet and begin to yank it toward the edge of the bed.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:40 PM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

My go-to favorite short poem: "Jenny Kissed Me," Leigh Hunt.

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in,
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your book, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add
Jenny kissed me.
posted by huimangm at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2019 [10 favorites]

Hippos on Holiday - Billy Collins

is not really the title of a movie
but if it was I would be sure to see it.
I love their short legs and big heads,
the whole hippo look.
Hundreds of them would frolic
in the mud of a wide, slow-moving river,
and I would eat my popcorn
in the dark of a neighborhood theater.
When they opened their enormous mouths
lined with big stubby teeth
I would drink my enormous Coke.

I would be both in my seat
and in the water playing with the hippos,
which is the way it is
with a truly great movie.
Only a mean-spirited reviewer
would ask on holiday from what?
posted by lyssabee at 1:50 PM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have a poetry app on my ipad I play with sometimes. It showed me this one once, which is too long for me to share.

This is one I just heard recently:

Instructions on Not Giving Up
Ada Limón, 1976

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:51 PM on April 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Staying Alive
by David Wagoner

Staying alive in the woods is a matter of calming down
At first and deciding whether to wait for rescue,
Trusting to others,
Or simply to start walking and walking in one direction
Till you come out--or something happens to stop you.
By far the safer choice
Is to settle down where you are, and try to make a living
Off the land, camping near water, away from shadows.
Eat no white berries;
Spit out all bitterness. . . .
If you have no matches, a stick and a fire-bow
Will keep you warmer,
Or the crystal of your watch, filled with water, held up to the sun
Will do the same in time. In case of snow
Drifting toward winter,
Don’t try to stay awake through the night, afraid of freezing--
The bottom of your mind knows all about zero;
It will turn you over
And shake you till you waken. If you have trouble sleeping
Even in the best of weather, jumping to follow
With eyes strained to their corners
The unidentifiable noises of the night and feeling
Bears and packs of wolves nuzzling your elbow,
Remember the trappers
Who treated them indifferently and were left alone.
If you hurt yourself, no one will comfort you
Or take your temperature,
So stumbling, wading, and climbing are as dangerous as flying. . . .
But if you decide, at last, you must break through
In spite of all danger,
Think of yourself by time and not by distance, counting
Wherever you’re going by how long it takes you;
No other measure
Will bring you safe to nightfall. Follow no streams: they run
Under the ground or fall into wilder country.
Remember the stars
And moss when your mind runs into circles. If it should rain
Or the fog should roll the horizon in around you,
Hold still for hours
Or days if you must, or weeks, for seeing is believing
In the wilderness. And if you find a pathway,
Wheel-rut, or fence-wire,
Retrace it left or right: someone knew where he was going
Once upon a time, and you can follow
Hopefully, somewhere,
Just in case. There may even come, on some uncanny evening,
A time when you’re warm and dry, well fed, not thirst,
Uninjured, without fear ,
When nothing, either good or bad, is happening.
This is called staying alive. It’s temporary.
What occurs after
Is doubtful. You must always be ready for something to come bursting
Through the far edge of a clearing, running toward you,
Grinning from ear to ear
And hoarse with welcome. Or something crossing and hovering
Overhead, as light as air, like a break in the sky,
Wondering what you are.
Here you are face to face with the problem of recognition.
Having no time to make smoke, too much to say,
You should have a mirror
With a tiny hole in the back for better aiming, for reflecting
Whatever disaster you can think of, to show
The way you suffer.
These body signals have universal meaning: If you are lying
Flat on your back with arms outstretched behind you,
You say you require
Emergency treatment; if you are standing erect and holding
Arms horizontal, you mean you are ready;
If you hold them over
Your head, you want to be picked up. Three of anything
Is a sign of distress. Afterward, if you see
No ropes, no ladders,
No maps or messages falling, no searchlights or trails blazing,
Then, chances are, you should be prepared to burrow
Deep for a deep winter.
posted by Stanczyk at 1:53 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Last Spring
Gottfried Benn

Fill yourself up with the forsythias
and when the lilacs flower, stir them in too
with your blood and happiness and wretchedness,
the dark ground that seems to come with you.

Sluggish days. All obstacles overcome.
And if you say: ending or beginning, who knows,
then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.
posted by not_the_water at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

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 labours, 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 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 the 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.

-Philip Levine

The poem all the way at the top, Monet Refuses the Operation, took on a greater, more beautiful meaning years ago when I went to an exhibition of his later paintings. His eyesight had worsened, and the paintings were very different, no blues and greens, mostly just masses of browns and oranges, much murkier, very unfocused. The poem was running through my head the entire time.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:27 PM on April 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

Softest of Tongues
Vladimir Nabokov

To many things I've said the word that cheats
the lips and leaves them parted (thus: prash-chai
which means "good-bye") -- to furnished flats, to streets,
to milk-white letters melting in the sky;
to drab designs that habit seldom sees,
to novels interrupted by the din
of tunnels, annotated by quick trees,
abandoned with a squashed banana skin;
to a dim waiter in a dimmer town,
to cuts that healed and to a thumbless glove;
also to things of lyrical renown
perhaps more universal, such as love.
Thus life has been an endless line of land
receding endlessly.... And so that's that,
you say under your breath, and wave your hand,
and then your handkerchief, and then your hat.
To all these things I've said the fatal word,
using a tongue I had so tuned and tamed
that -- like some ancient sonneteer -- I heard
its echoes by posterity acclaimed.
But now thou too must go; just here we part,
softest of tongues, my true one, all my own....
And I am left to grope for heart and art
and start anew with clumsy tools of stone.
posted by Catseye at 2:39 PM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sunday, I-80
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

The road from Pennsylvania to Ohio is all blood and mangled limbs.
I consider the deer, its tongue drawn out along the highway’s cracked shoulder
its stomach unzipped, insides turned to the sky’s cool mouth.

why don’t they just run?
don’t they know that nothing but death waits
on the other side of any darkness swallowed by a swath of light?

I once read that when the brightness comes, the deer become paralyzed
fear draws up its long skirt and dances along their spines

what is it to watch death hurling an unhinged jaw towards your neck
while you stand too frozen to even tremble?

is it better this, than to have full use of what can carry you away from heaven
and yet still end up there, enough holes in your chest for all of God’s light to drink from?

I once ran to keep all of my teeth, to stop my own eye from swelling shut.
and here I am, still knowing that there is an end that waits for my legs to give out

I make the long drive home in the summer of bullets passing through black skin
and lodging into the walls of a church

I make the long drive home in the summer of smoke rising from the lord’s house,
prayer meetings in living rooms behind locked doors

I make the long drive home in the summer of blood and burial and blood and burial
and the Pennsylvania state line is only a dark red this time

and the corpses are piled high on along the highway’s ledge,
stretching for miles and high enough to reach the trees

I walk along the road and smell the cooked flesh
I touch the bent and splintered bones and consider the other side of fear:

the teeth prying themselves loose from a boy drowning in light
his mother, pulled free of a grave bearing his name,

watering a garden where the flowers grow to the size of
every living child in the ‘hood

every stone in the cemetery scrubbed clean
of anyone too young to lend their mouths to a small lover’s first kiss

a song rattling the unblemished walls of a church
with no caskets inside
a grandmother who will live forever
a prayer over a feast

I will survive my grief, amen.
I have run into the darkness and arrived in the morning still living, amen.
I have made my home anywhere I still have a name, amen.

I swear that they cannot kill us all

posted by yasaman at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

It's hard to pick. But, if I pick the one poem that is guaranteed to make me stop doing whatever I'm doing when I hear it and just sit still and listen, it's part 8 of A Cony Island of the Mind. (I'm too lazy to get the formatting right. . . but, I claim it's meant to be heard rather than read.)

In Golden Gate Park that day
a man and his wife were coming along
thru the enormous meadow
which was the meadow of the world
He was wearing green suspenders
and carrying an old beat-up flute
in one hand
while his wife had a bunch of grapes
which she kept handing out
to various squirrels
as if each
were a little joke

And then the two of them came on
thru the enormous meadow
which was the meadow of the world
and then
at a very still spot where the trees dreamed
and seemed to have been waiting thru all time
for them
they sat down together on the grass
without looking at each other
and ate oranges
without looking at each other
and put the peels
in a basket which they seemed
to have brought for that purpose
without looking at each other

And then
he took his shirt and undershirt off
but kept his hat on
and without saying anything
fell asleep under it
And his wife just sat there looking
at the birds which flew about
calling to each other
in the stilly air
as if they were questioning existence
or trying to recall something forgotten

But then finally
she too lay down flat
and just lay there looking up
at nothing
yet fingering the old flute
which nobody played
and finally looking over
at him
without any particular expression
except a certain awful look
of terrible depression
posted by eotvos at 2:44 PM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Onions," by Lorna Crozier.


The onion loves the onion.
It has its many layers,
saying O,O,O,
each vowel smaller
than the last.

Some say it has no heart.
It doesn’t need one.
It surrounds itself,
feels whole. Primordial.
First among vegetables.

If Eve had bitten it
instead of the apple,
how different

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:45 PM on April 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

I fall in love with so many odd poems. This is one of the ones in regular rotation for me. My town does a thing called Poem Town where they have people submit poems they've written and they're hung up in the storefronts of all the businesses in town and you can walk along and read poems written by your neighbors. It's a great way to celebrate the month.

You Want a Social Life, with Friends - Kenneth Koch

You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What's true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.

There isn't time enough, my friends--
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends--
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day's end?

Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:07 PM on April 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

Why Pay Taxes
by linh dinh

You call it maize,
Hang it by Jesus.
I call it corn syrup.

Don’t want no Blue Ox or Red Bull,
Just give me a tall bottle of fizzin’,
Old fashioned, syrupy corn syrup.

Shurfine supposedly pork sausage,
Less than 99% corn syrup, exactly
The way I like it. Shurfine ketchup,
Approaching 200% corn syrup.

Subsidized by my 24/7 huffing and sweating,
Corn syrup oozes through my jiggling mass.
Sugar, let me rub some corn syrup on ya.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:15 PM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

(I need to remember to copy and paste my poetry from more reputable sources. The spelling in my post above is nuts. Sorry!)
posted by eotvos at 3:18 PM on April 22, 2019

A Small Needful Fact
Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.
posted by sockermom at 4:13 PM on April 22, 2019 [18 favorites]

I keep a running list of the poems I post for poetry month in my profile!

Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

—Adam Zagajewski
posted by charmedimsure at 4:24 PM on April 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

This is one of mine, and I asked a question on the Green 11 years ago to help me find it again.

The Horses
by Edwin Muir

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs, no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, headed north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters crouched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
"They'll molder away and be like other loam."
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.
posted by Chairboy at 4:35 PM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of my very favorite poets, Forrest Gander, just won the Pulitzer for his book Be With about losing one of my other favorite poets, CD Wright. This is one of my very very favorite poems of his because it reminds me of my grandfather - I quote the last line all the time. (Audio here.)

The Ark Upon His Shoulders

My husband did all this. We used to live
in a rambling kind of house with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stove with a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luck to come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck to pay back salt
if you borrow it. To the day he died
he smelled pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him up there
and the wind just blowing--you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
Our second house he built it.
Cut me a yard broom from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see one through the cracks.
He had something he said to hush them.
Come up the porch steps arms full of light wood.
In those days we drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and put some syrup in it
and stir it up and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers were so hot you saw
little devils twizzling out in front of you.
He called them lazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird, he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caught a ride back
from town with seeds and a hoop of greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and light bread. He carried that umbrella
over me and I would have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one. The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains. He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver. I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three days labor he attended me
how a dragonfly hovers over water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautiful girl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother. Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed. I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydid chirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost. Ones who were in trouble
they always sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew how to do he did them.
posted by barchan at 4:58 PM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


Tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara

The world of dew
is a world of dew.
And yet, and yet...

Kobayashi Issa
posted by y2karl at 5:03 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Toyotomi remembers
Spring garden walk
Rain coming fast
posted by clavdivs at 5:10 PM on April 22, 2019

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home.

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings –

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside –
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

-Craig Raine
posted by clavdivs at 5:13 PM on April 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

Strong in the Rain by Kenji Miyazawa

translation by Roger Pulvers

Strong in the rain
Strong in the wind
Strong against the summer heat and snow
He is healthy and robust
Free from desire
He never loses his temper
Nor the quiet smile on his lips
He eats four go of unpolished rice
Miso and a few vegetables a day
He does not consider himself
In whatever occurs
His understanding
Comes from observation and experience
And he never loses sight of things
He lives in a little thatched-roof hut
In a field in the shadows of a pine tree grove
If there is a sick child in the east
He goes there to nurse the child
If there’s a tired mother in the west
He goes to her and carries her sheaves
If someone is near death in the south
He goes and says, ‘Don’t be afraid’
If there are strife and lawsuits in the north
He demands that the people put an end to their pettiness
He weeps at the time of drought
He plods about at a loss during the cold summer
Everybody calls him Blockhead
No one sings his praises
Or takes him to heart

That is the sort of person
I want to be
posted by darchildre at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm sure I first read this poem from a Metafilter post in the last few years.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
posted by muddgirl at 6:27 PM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

Rain, by Raymond Carver.
posted by estlin at 6:35 PM on April 22, 2019 [18 favorites]

The Widow's Lament in Springtime
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:56 PM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

What a wonderful, wonderful post, CMcG. Thank you.

I have always loved this one:

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

— Wendy Cope

I did not even know this was National Poetry Month.

I just saw Paterson, so everything feels especially poetic just now.
posted by kristi at 7:09 PM on April 22, 2019 [16 favorites]

What a wonderful thread.

Astrophel and Stella, Sonnet I
Sir Philip Sidney

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she (dear She) might take some pleasure of my pain:
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
'Fool' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart and write.'
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 7:56 PM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

CTRL + F "Frank O'Hara," zero results? This won't do.

Having a Coke with You
Frank O’Hara, 1926 - 1966

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:16 PM on April 22, 2019 [14 favorites]

To a Child
The leaves talked in the twilight, dear;
Hearken the tale they told:
How in some far-off place and year,
Before the world grew old,

I was a dreaming forest tree,
You were a wild, sweet bird
Who sheltered at the heart of me
Because the north wind stirred;

How, when the chiding gale was still,
When peace fell soft on fear,
You stayed one golden hour to fill
My dream with singing, dear.

To-night the self-same songs are sung
The first green forest heard;
My heart and the gray world grow young—
To shelter you, my bird.
posted by evilmomlady at 8:17 PM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do not go gentle into that good night - Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 PM on April 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Damn. It turns out the poem I posted here was the same poem I posted three years ago. It’s still good, but I’ll put this one here, too, just to make up for it:

Michiko Dead
He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly
when the fingers begin to tire, and it makes
different muscles take over. Afterward,
he carries it on his shoulder, until the blood
drains out of the arm that is stretched up
to steady the box and the arm goes numb. But now
the man can hold underneath again, so that
he can go on without ever putting the box down.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:58 PM on April 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

If There Be Sorrow
by Mari Evans

If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone...
to these add one:
love withheld...
posted by goodsearch at 9:42 PM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide
And that one talent which it is death to hide
Lodg’d in me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide.
‘Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?’
I fondly ask. Yet Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest.
They also serve who only stand and wait’.

- John Milton, 'On his Blindness' [or maybe not], 1673.

I memorized this thirty years ago and could remember almost all of it except the mild yoke business. Its fantastically elegant interplay of speech rhythm and poetic form helps with committing it to memory, I think.
posted by ogorki at 11:18 PM on April 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

I alluded to it in my comment last time around, but for anyone not familiar Bob Kaufman took a vow of silence when JFK was assassinated that lasted around a decade. The story goes that the first words he uttered were the words to a poem he had composed in the interim, All Those Ships That Never Sailed:

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls...
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail

All those flowers that you never grew-
that you wanted to grow
The ones that were plowed under
ground in the mud-
Today I bring them back
And let you grow them

All those wars and truces
Dancing down these years-
All in three flag swept days
Rejected meaning of God-

My body once covered with beauty
Is now a museum of betrayal.
This part remembered because of that one's touch
This part remembered for that one's kiss-
Today I bring it back
And let you live forever.

I breath a breathless I love you
And move you

Remove the snake from Moses' arm...
And someday the Jewish queen will dance
Down the street with the dogs
And make every Jew
Her lover.

posted by juv3nal at 11:44 PM on April 22, 2019

But I also do love me some Susie Asado (by Gertrude Stein):

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
     Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
     Susie Asado.
Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly. These are the wets these say the sets to
   leave a crown to Incy.
Incy is short for incubus.
A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble, the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles
   which shade and shove and render clean, render clean must.
     Drink pups.
Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink has pins. It shows a nail.
What is a nail. A nail is unison.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

posted by juv3nal at 11:52 PM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

ogorki, there is an essay somewhere by Anne Fadiman about how she and her elderly father spent a phone call trying to reconstruct your Milton poem from memory after her father had suddenly gone almost blind. It's a decent example (one of many) of why literature is not irrelevant to real life.
posted by huimangm at 12:03 AM on April 23, 2019

By David Kirby:

Taking It Home to Jerome

In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was
always urging his listeners to ‘‘take it on home to Jerome.’’

No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it
didn’t matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn’t have anything

to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,

do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your

right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:

the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I’m writing a poem,

I feel as though I’m operating that crusher that turns
a full-sized car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase.

At other times, I’m just a secretary: the world has so much
to say, and I’m writing it down. This great tenderness.
posted by slidell at 12:22 AM on April 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
~ Unending love, by Rabindranath Tagore. The original, in Bengali, is melodic and haunting in a way that the translation doesn't quite capture.
posted by Nieshka at 1:54 AM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –

"Because I could not stop for Death"
- Emily Dickinson, late 1800s
posted by bendy at 3:37 AM on April 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

March 7, 1995

I wrap my lips around the lips of my lover the bottle.
I lay my hands on her smooth curves.
In the bed lies the man who raised me from dust,
But he does not know me, he cannot see.

Death waits in the corridor, breathing softly,
but we don't hear him over the rhythm of the machines.
Pumps run, liquid flows and steam rises.
The bottle holds water, not the fire it used to,
and my father is the same.

The fire has turned to water while pumps run and steam rises
and death breathes beneath the rhythm of the machines.

- yours truly
posted by bendy at 3:50 AM on April 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I Know a Man
by Robert Creeley

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.
posted by hototogisu at 3:58 AM on April 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

I cut in two
A long November night, and
Place half under the coverlet,
Sweet-scented as a spring breeze.
And when he comes, I shall take it out,
Unroll it inch by inch, to stretch the night.

Hwang Jin-i (1520-1560)
posted by honey-barbara at 5:18 AM on April 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

An Ancient Dog Grave, Unearthed During Construction of the Athens Metro

It is not the curled-up bones, nor even the grave
That stops me, but the blue beads on the collar
(Whose leather has long gone the way of hides),
The ones to ward off evil. A careful master
Even now protects a favorite, just so.
But what evil could she suffer after death?
I picture the loyal companion, bereaved of her master,
Trotting the long, dark way that slopes to the river,
Nearly trampled by all the nations marching down,
One war after another, flood or famine,
Her paws sucked by the thick, caliginous mud,
Deep as her dewclaws, near the riverbank.
In the press for the ferry, who will lift her into the boat?
Will she cower under the pier and be forgotten,
Forever howling and whimpering, tail tucked under?
What stranger pays her passage? Perhaps she swims,
Dog-paddling the current of oblivion.
A shake as she scrambles ashore sets the beads jingling.
And then, that last, tense moment — touching noses
Once, twice, three times, with unleashed Cerberus.

--A.E. Stallings
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:45 AM on April 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

From Fin de fiesta by Pablo Neruda, translation by Alastair Reid


White foam, March in Isla Negra, I see
wave working on wave, the whiteness weakening,
the ocean overflowing from its bottomless cup,
the still sky crisscrossed
by long slow flights of sacerdotal birds,
and the yellow comes,
the month changes colour, the beard
of a sea-coast autumn grows,
and I am called Pablo,
I am the same so far,
I have loves, I have doubts,
I have debts.
I have the vast sea with its workers
moving wave after wave,
I am so restless that I visit
nations not yet born -
I come and go on the sea and its countries,
I know
the language of the fishbone,
the tooth of the hard fish,
chill of the latitudes,
blood of the coral, the silent
night of the whale,
for from land to land I went, exploring
estuaries, insufferable regions,
and always I returned, I found no peace -
what could I say at all without my roots?


What could I say without coming to ground?
To whom would I turn without the rain?
Thus I was never where I found myself
and I took no journey other than the return
and I kept neither picture nor lock of hair
from the cathedrals - I have tried
to shape my own stone with the work of my hands,
sensibly, wildly, following my whim,
with rage and equilibrium - at every hour
I touched the territories of the lion,
the restless sanctuary of the bees,
thus, when I saw what I had already seen
and touched both earth and mud, stone and my foam,
natures which recognise my step, my words,
curling plants which kissed my mouth,
I said 'I am here', I stripped in the light,
I let my hands fall to the sea,
and when everything took on transparency,
under the land, I was at peace.

Skunk Hour by Robert Lowell

Nautilus Island’s hermit
heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;
her sheep still graze above the sea.
Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer
is first selectman in our village;
she’s in her dotage.

Thirsting for
the hierarchic privacy
of Queen Victoria’s century,
she buys up all
the eyesores facing her shore,
and lets them fall.

The season’s ill—
we’ve lost our summer millionaire,
who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean
catalogue. His nine-knot yawl
was auctioned off to lobstermen.
A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.

And now our fairy
decorator brightens his shop for fall;
his fishnet’s filled with orange cork,
orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl;
there is no money in his work,
he’d rather marry.

One dark night,
my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull;
I watched for love-cars. Lights turned down,
they lay together, hull to hull,
where the graveyard shelves on the town...
My mind’s not right.

A car radio bleats,
“Love, O careless Love...” I hear
my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,
as if my hand were at its throat...
I myself am hell;
nobody’s here—

only skunks, that search
in the moonlight for a bite to eat.
They march on their soles up Main Street:
white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire
under the chalk-dry and spar spire
of the Trinitarian Church.

I stand on top
of our back steps and breathe the rich air—
a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail
She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
and will not scare.

And a couple of my own from long ago, when my primary influences were Eliot and my own weird ideas about religion, before I gave up the whole thing in favour of prose.

Paradise (II)

When Adam first made love, that night, to Eve,
Their god grew jealous, turned his face away,
And sent the snake, to make them both believe
That evil had engulfed them as they lay,
And made them hide themselves from him in shame.
He made them perfect, though not wholly his,
As in the other's heart each held a flame:
The mystery of love, regardless, is
His greatest gift. In time he came to hate,
Their beauty, and their happiness, their fear
When, cowered from the seraph at the gate,
They told him that his love they could not bear;
He rained down angels, armed with swords and guns,
And hid his face forever from their sons.

Phlebas the Phoenician

Were you there when my saints fell from the sky,
A rain of half-burnt hellfire on my head,
Or when I was was mistaken for the god,
That custom yet would kill to call the spring,
And priests and people dutifully drown?

I sparred with God, excusing his foul mouth,
Although he would forsake me, as he did
His other son; as he excused my own.

Were you there when I built, with breaking hands,
A leaking vessel, ready to be drowned?

Were you there when I wove with half-flayed hands
A fine, decorous ceremonial wreath?

I took

The loves I dreamt in nihilistic youth,
That were so easy, each, to be refused,
With looks and lockets left upon the bank.

Hand in my hand, as I have described,
We used to walk together to the shore,
I dreamt that down together we would go;

Alone, sat in Gethsemane all night,
I prayed, waiting to see myself be sold -

A final time I (disappointed) stood
In that you came through not on either chance,
But skulked far from me, hidden-faced and cold,
Whilst I was dressed in ceremony old

To bring the new;

They turned away as I began to sink,
They would not watch my fearful face go down -
They'd transubstantiate man into god,
But could not watch his final human breath.

Barbarity in ritual they knew,
And could no longer bear to see its pain.

(I saw your eyes one last time, far behind
The reeds where I had thought that we would part;
Vacant, save for terror and disgust).
posted by terretu at 5:59 AM on April 23, 2019

The Third Memory, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

We all live through an hour like this.
When anguish sticks to you like glue
and, in stark nakedness exposed
all life appears devoid of meaning.

A deadly chill will creep inside
and, to control that stubborn self,
we weakly summon a memory
as we might call a nurse in aid.

In us at times there’s such a deep night
at times in us such utter ruin
that no memory of either reason
or heart could help us in our plight.

The gleam of life forsakes our eyes
Movement and speech - these are dead.
But a third memory we have -
The body’s memory is this.

Then, vividly, let feet recall
the heat of dusty roads that scorched,
and the fields of grass that used to chill
our soles when barefoot we trampled about.

And fondly let a cheek remember
the friendly understanding dog
that consoled us, bruised and battered
in a fight with its good rough tongue

And feeling guilty, let your brow
remember how a kiss in blessing,
touched it almost without sound,
a mother’s tenderness expressing.

And let your back voluptuously
remember the drowsy languor biding
in Earth’s deep soul, as you lie there
with eyes devouring all the sky.

Let fingers feel the rye and conifers
the almost impalpable rain.
A sparrows shiver, and the quiver
down the nervous withers of a horse.

Let lips remember other lips.
Their ice and fire. Their gloom and glow
The whole world in them
A world
All redolent of oranges and snow…

Shame will awake when you remember,
You’ll grasp the crime of censuring life,
And body’s memory will then restore
The memory of heart and reason.

And you will say to life: Forgive.
I used to blame you in my blindness.
As from a grievous sin, absolve
me of my raging bluntness.

And if we are obliged to pay
a savage price because this world
is beautiful - All right, I’ll say,
That I consent to pay the price.

But life, are all the stringencies
of fate, the losses, sudden blows,
So great a price for me to pay
for all the beauty you contain?
posted by eirias at 6:07 AM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Because I’m finally drunk enough, and the post asked for originals, here’s the best thing I’ve probably ever written, and, after careful realization of that fact, one of the last poems I think I’ll ever write:

The way you say dandelions
Makes me think of the veldt,
And the pride slinking forward,
Careful to avoid spilling their drinks,
Or soiling their tuxedoes.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:25 AM on April 23, 2019 [11 favorites]

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.

The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea
And still the sea is salt.

A.E. Housman

On an ebony bed decorated
with coral eagles, sound asleep lies
Nero --- unconscious, quiet, and blissful;
thriving in the vigor of flesh,
and in the splendid power of youth.

But in the alabaster hall that encloses
the ancient shrine of the Aenobarbi
how restive are his Lares.
The little household gods tremble,
and try to hide their insignificant bodies.
For they heard a horrible clamor,
a deathly clamor ascending the stairs,
iron footsteps rattling the stairs.
And now in a faint the miserable Lares,
burrow in the depth of the shrine,
one tumbles and stumbles upon the other,
one little god falls over the other
for they understand what sort of clamor this is,
they are already feeling the footsteps of the Furies

Footsteps, C.P. Cavafy

Out of a fired ship, which by no way
But drowning could be rescued from the flame,
Some men leap'd forth, and ever as they came
Near the foes' ships, did by their shot decay;
So all were lost, which in the ship were found,
They in the sea being burnt, they in the burnt ship drown'd.

John Donne (I'm going to restrain myself to one Donne or I'd end up just pasting half the epigrams in here)

Finally, a bit of fun from Clive James:

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler's War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots--
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor's Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
"My boobs will give everyone hours of fun".

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error--
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.
posted by atrazine at 6:37 AM on April 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

"I Love You Sweatheart"

A man risked his life to write the words.
A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
holding his legs?) with spray paint
to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
a highway. And his beloved,
the next morning driving to work...?
His words are not (meant to be) so unique.
Does she recognize his handwriting?
Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
of "something special, darling, tomorrow"?
And did he call her at work
expecting her to faint with delight
at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
She will know I love her now,
the world will know my love for her!
A man risked his life to write the words.
Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart, all sore and dumb
and dangerous, ignited, blessed--always,
regardless, no exceptions,
always in blazing matters like these: blessed.

Thomas Lux
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:41 AM on April 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


Wilt thou go with me sweet maid
Say maiden wilt thou go with me
Through the valley depths of shade
Of night and dark obscurity
Where the path hath lost its way
Where the sun forgets the day
Where there’s nor life nor light to see
Sweet maiden wilt thou go with me

Where stones will turn to flooding streams,
Where plains will rise like ocean waves,
Where life will fade like visioned dreams
And mountains darken into caves.
Say maiden wilt thou go with me
Through this sad non-identity
Where parents live and are forgot
And sisters live and know us not

Say maiden wilt thou go with me
In this strange death of life to be
To live in death and be the same
Without this life, or home, or name
At once to be, and not to be
That was, and is not – yet to see
Things pass like shadows – and the sky
Above, below, around us lie

The land of shadows wilt thou trace
And look – nor know each other’s face
The present mixed with reasons gone
And past, and present all as one
Say maiden can thy life be led
To join the living to the dead
Then trace thy footsteps on with me
We’re wed to one eternity

—John Clare
posted by misteraitch at 6:51 AM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's probably not the poem with the best literary quality I've ever seen, but I don't know another one that does such a marvelous job of capturing that moment when you know you're not a little kid any longer, although adults can't see that.

On Turning Ten--Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:31 AM on April 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

One from a previous post:

Thrice toss these oaken ashes in the air,
Thrice sit thou mute in this enchanted chair,
Then thrice three times tie up this true love's knot,
And murmur soft "She will, or she will not."

Go burn these pois'nous weeds in yon blue fire,
These screech-owl's feathers and this prickling briar,
This cypress gathered at a dead man's grave,
That all my fears and cares an end may have.

Then come, you fairies! dance with me a round;
Melt her hard heart with your melodious sound.
In vain are all the charms I can devise:
She hath an art to break them with her eyes.

Thomas Campion
posted by y2karl at 8:02 AM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

And another, read:

Villon by Basil Bunting
posted by y2karl at 8:29 AM on April 23, 2019

I am not much a poetry guy, but this one has stuck with me for 22 years now, surprised I did not bring it into that previous thread... I am sure I have shared it here before. And now I realise that I am so not a poetry guy that this is the last poem I have read attentively, I guess it was good enough, I have checked off the "poem I like" box!

Jobsite Wind

Long ago and memory as if yesterday I was a construction worker, and had my hand in again a few years ago as a fake farmer in Nova Scotia. I am medium competent swinging a hammer and building things. In my heart I am a worker, a builder, and this poem speaks to me deeply.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:36 AM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.


Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:52 AM on April 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Sad Steps

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.

Four o’clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There’s something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate—
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can’t come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.


The Colonel

WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried
a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went
out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the
cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over
the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.
Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to
scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On
the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had
dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for
calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of
bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief
commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was
some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot
said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed
himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say
nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries
home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like
dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one
of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water
glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As
for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them-
selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last
of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some
of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the
ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.
posted by Frowner at 9:26 AM on April 23, 2019 [12 favorites]

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would
take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
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.
posted by runincircles at 9:43 AM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Searched Soul by Dorothy Parker

When I consider, pro and con,
What things my love is built upon --
A curly mouth; a sinewed wrist;
A questioning brow; a pretty twist
Of words as old and tried as sin;
A pointed ear; a cloven chin;
Long, tapered limbs; and slanted eyes
Not cold nor kind nor darkly wise --
When so I ponder, here apart,
What shallow boons suffice my heart,
What dust-bound trivia capture me,
I marvel at my normalcy.
posted by runincircles at 9:47 AM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is
at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a
estimate, though I keep this from my
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a
For every loved child, a child broken,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break
though I keep this from my children. I
am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent
walking you through a real shithole,
chirps on
about good bones: This place could be
right? You could make this place
posted by pecanpies at 9:53 AM on April 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

I saw Eve Ewing read this in person last year, and it wrecked me.

I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store

looking over the plums, one by one
lifting each to his eyes and
turning it slowly, a little earth,
checking the smooth skin for pockmarks
and rot, or signs of unkind days or people,
then sliding them gently into the plastic.
whistling softly, reaching with a slim, woolen arm
into the cart, he first balanced them over the wire
before realizing the danger of bruising
and lifting them back out, cradling them
in the crook of his elbow until
something harder could take that bottom space.
I knew him from his hat, one of those
fine porkpie numbers they used to sell
on Roosevelt Road. it had lost its feather but
he had carefully folded a dollar bill
and slid it between the ribbon and the felt
and it stood at attention. he wore his money.
upright and strong, he was already to the checkout
by the time I caught up with him. I called out his name
and he spun like a dancer, candy bar in hand,
looked at me quizzically for a moment before
remembering my face. he smiled. well
hello young lady
hello, so chilly today
should have worn my warm coat like you
yes so cool for August in Chicago
how are things going for you
he sighed and put the candy on the belt
it goes, it goes.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:08 AM on April 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

Dinosaurs in the Hood
Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks —

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles — saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2019 [13 favorites]

thank you holmesian; having once heard it on the radio, i've been looking for that poem for some years now.
i see roland of eld has already posted mad farmer's manifesto, so i'll leave you only with this one of my own:
soggy worm bodies
pink upon wet black asphalt
spring has come again
this year, i first noticed the spring-signifying scent of drowned worms last week.
posted by 20 year lurk at 1:08 PM on April 23, 2019

Some favorites:

"Last Words (to a Dying Cat)" from To the Center of the Earth by Michael Fried

All right, tough girl, if it's really, really time for you to go
We're powerless to stop you. Just be sure to find
Another couple like us who'll look after you until the happy day
We arrive to join you. And remember, Cleo,
No matter how good to you they are,
You're our cat.

And from the same collection by the same author, "Somewhere a Seed"

Somewhere a seed falls to the ground
That will become a tree
That will some day be felled
From which thin shafts will be extracted
To be made into arrows
To be fitted with warheads
One of which, some day when you least expect it,
While a winter sun is shining
On a river of ice
And you feel farthest from self-pity,
Will pierce your shit-filled heart.

Also a huge fan of Wilfred Owen. Here is his "Sonnet On Seeing a Piece of our Heavy Artillery Brought into Action" (incorporated into the amazing War Requiem by Benjamin Britten)

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
Spend our resentment, cannon, yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, the spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!
posted by slkinsey at 1:32 PM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Believed-In
By James McMichael

Christmas comes from stories.
These promise that God's love for us will outstrip death.
Only if it's not likely to
Can the believed-in happen.
All I can be sure of waiting for it

Is that I want it to come. Than almost anything,
I'd rather it be love that at its last the body can't

Take anymore and
Dies of,
Alive at once to its having been made good.
Results at the end vary. Children

Beloved by them are sometimes told by the dying
"I thought it would be you of
All people who would keep me here."
If it's to be to God's keep that I give up those I lose,

Then God both knew what it was to lose a son and could do
Nothing either time to save him.
That doesn't sound like God. God can do all.
Lost twice to body, Jesus was as quickly back again in

God's love forever. There's much I'm thankful for in my one time.
It was given to me to have been
Loved for my first six years in a house that had my nanny
Florence in it and my mother and dad. Never talked about
Even by them,

My mother's doom was there too. In the looks those three passed,
Each had to have seen the stakes in who was who
And may have wanted to switch.

I'm lost to the ways that love is right

At bodies sometimes, always just as it's leaving and
Often without touch.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2019

This poem posting dedicated to OpenAI and thoughtful, responsible researchers everywhere.

Discovery, by Wislawa Szymborska

I believe in the great discovery.
I believe in the man who will make the discovery.
I believe in the fear of the man who will make the discovery.

I believe in his face going white,
His queasiness, his upper lip drenched in cold sweat.

I believe in the burning of his notes,
burning them into ashes,
burning them to the last scrap.

I believe in the scattering of numbers,
scattering them without regret.

I believe in the man’s haste,
in the precision of his movements,
in his free will.

I believe in the shattering of tablets,
the pouring out of liquids,
the extinguishing of rays.

I am convinced this will end well,
that it will not be too late,
that it will take place without witnesses.

I’m sure no one will find out what happened,
not the wife, not the wall,
not even the bird that might squeal in its song.

I believe in the refusal to take part.
I believe in the ruined career.
I believe in the wasted years of work.
I believe in the secret taken to the grave.

These words soar for me beyond all rules
without seeking support from actual examples.
My faith is strong, blind, and without foundation.
posted by potrzebie at 6:05 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

"Wait" by Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

(This poem literally saved my life.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:50 PM on April 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

The Distant Drum
by Calvin C. Hernton

I am not a metaphor or symbol.
This you hear is not the wind in the trees,
Nor a cat being maimed in the street.
I am being maimed in the street.
It is I who weep, laugh, feel pain or joy,
Speak this because I exist.
This is my voice.
These words are my words,
My mouth speaks them,
My hand writes–
I am a poet.
It is my fist you hear
Beating against your ear.
posted by goodsearch at 8:08 PM on April 23, 2019

The moon

The moon is outside.
I saw the great uncomplicated thing
when I went to take a leak just now.
I should have looked at it longer.
I am a poor lover of the moon.
I see it all at once and that's it
for me and the moon.

(Leonard Cohen)
posted by The Toad at 8:49 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here's a favorite of mine that I can guarantee no one else will post.

Spring Flowers

Flowers are beautiful.
They smell like spring, too.
Flowers don't have electricity like we do.
You don't have to be a flower to smell like spring.

(poem written in 1st grade by my soon-to-be 30 year old daughter)
posted by she's not there at 10:26 PM on April 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

The Toad you helped remind me that I did read another good poem in the intervening 22 years - Whitey on the Moon. But that is incredibly well known so I guess you have all already seen it.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:06 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Why Poetry Cannot Be Skimmed
In response to a student who told me he just “skims” the poetry right before class

The barn was in the Netherlands,
in a field where fierce night wind
caught the straw as if to fuse
the winter stars to their coldness.
A farmer, woken by the sound, knowing
his animals would be agitated,
walked to the barn and by lantern
brushed the tails of his horses.
In calming them he gathered
many long, gleaming strands
of their nut-brown hair. Given over
to what he heard in the swishing of their tails—
the lash, the taut string of grief, turned slow,
persistence turned to rhythmic movement—
he hoped that if he listened long enough
the layered sound would become a salve.
He rolled the strands together, laid out
along the windowsills of the barn.

Then, once dry enough in spring,
he rolled them in paraffin wax
to preserve the sound
and left them to absorb
all the varied rays of sun, the spills
of rain, and then snow flying fast
across the latched windows and the slats,
the rhythm of other breathing,
animals plodding by the barn walls.
The wax melted as the years progressed
and other horses resided in the stalls,
and their tail strands were added
to the aging threads. From that encased sound
deepening over years, a rope,
pulled strong and taut, would resonate.

Then another generation worked the land
and waxed the horse-tail cord again,
and in turn when it caught
that century’s light, was spun
into amber. Woven into the cells of hair:
the tones of canal and field,
pasture, furrows of plough,
leaf and shadow, straw and stone,
the human calling, the animal uttering.
And when melted again, incrementally
strands from other horses living there
were added until there were enough
layers of sound, set with the nourishment
of grass and salt, to be given away
and the space the hair had occupied
would be returned to emptiness.

The horse-hair cord was brought
by a farmer to a luthier’s shop
along a canal, and it was a perfect fit,
she said, for a violin bow
she had carved a few months earlier,
waiting, and for the bow-less violin
someone had just given her. She knew
rosin carrying a current through
pastures, filled thirst, and the grief
of night wind and scavenged apples
made the gathered pieces a whole.

And now they are together in your hands
this moment to make
unrehearsed, immediate,
after all those animals’ years,
when you bring the instrument to your chin,
when you raise the hair-strung bow,
again their elemental sounding,
and then their measured note, their first.
posted by drlith at 4:25 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ode to Lithium #600, Shira Ehrlichman

The side effect of Lithium (is dehydration & peeing more frequently. The side effect of dehydration & peeing more frequently is not wanting to drink water at all because you pee more frequently. The side effect of not wanting to is not doing. The side effect of not doing is a couch & three movies. The side effect of a couch & three movies is what have you been doing all day with a raised eyebrow. The side effect of a raised eyebrow is a sigh. The side effect of a sigh is plaque. The side effect of plaque is a dirt road but you’re bikeless. The side effect of bikeless is an unrelenting heartbeat with a passion for waves. The side effect of a passion for waves is dream upon dream where every object is as blue as the sea. The side effect of overwhelmingly blue dreams is a girlfriend who listens. The side effect of this particular girlfriend is black soap that sits staining the side of the tub. The side effect of stains is her name in your cheek like a cool marble. The side effect of her name is your hands pulling chicken apart into a big bowl that she is also filling & every now & then she shakes near your face a ligament so nasty you both squeal & it is good. The side effect of it is good is it is bad. The side effect of it is bad is crossing your legs in the psychiatrist’s office, talking about side effects. The side effect of side effects is living your life. The side effect of living your life is dying. The side effect of dying is being remembered. The side effect of being remembered is being held like a stone, but of course it is not a stone but a bird that too will die. The side effect of a stone that is not a stone is throwing the stone & watching it fly. The side effect of flight) is a poem.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 AM on April 24, 2019

Cree Girl Explodes the Necropolis of Ottawa by Billy-Ray Belcourt.
posted by platitudipus at 6:38 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

(CN: Suicide) This poem has, for years, provided me consolation.

When I first read it, I hadn't realized that it was even possible to hold the thought of suicide, to know it intimately, inside and out, and to not act on it.

To Friends Who Have Also Considered Suicide
by Phyllis Webb
from Peacock Blue: The Collected Poems edited by John F. Hulcoop

It's still a good idea.
Its exercise is discipline:
to remember to cross the street without looking,
to remember not to jump when the cars side-swipe,
to remember not to bother to have clothes cleaned,
to remember not to eat or want to eat,
to consider numerous methods of killing oneself,
that is surely the finest exercise of the imagination:
death by drowning, sleeping pills, slashed wrists,
kitchen fumes, bullets through the brain or through the stomach, hanging
by the neck in attic or basement,
a clean frozen death -- the ways are endless.
And consider the drama! It's better than a whole season
at Stratford when you think of the emotion of your
family on hearing the news and when you imagine
how embarrassed some will be when the body is found.
One could furnish a whole chorus in a Greek play
with expletives and feel sneaky and omniscient
at the same time. But there's not shame
in this concept of suicide.
It has concerned our best philosophers
and inspired some of the most popular
of our politicians and financiers.
Some people swim lakes, others climb flagpoles,
some join monasteries, but we, my friends,
who have considered suicide take our daily walk
with death and are not lonely.
In the end it brings more honesty and care
than all the democratic parliament of tricks.
It is the "sickness unto death"; it is death;
it is not death; it is the sand from the beaches
of a hundred civilizations, the sand in the teeth
of death and barnacles of our singing tongue:
and this is "life" and we owe at least this much
contemplation to our Western fact: to Rise,
Decline, Fall, to futility and larks,
to the bright crustaceans of the oversky.
posted by platitudipus at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Marilyn Hacker, is someone I have been obsessed with:

[Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?]

Didn’t Sappho say her guts clutched up like this?
Before a face suddenly numinous,
her eyes watered, knees melted. Did she lactate
again, milk brought down by a girl’s kiss?
It’s documented torrents are unloosed
by such events as recently produced
not the wish, but the need, to consume, in us,
one pint of Maalox, one of Kaopectate.
My eyes and groin are permanently swollen,
I’m alternatingly brilliant and witless
—and sleepless: bed is just a swamp to roll in.
Although I’d cream my jeans touching your breast,
sweetheart, it isn’t lust; it’s all the rest
of what I want with you that scares me shitless.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:30 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yesterday was the 403rd anniversary of Shakespeare's death. And so, Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Oh, of course that's idealistic, and love is often anything but "ever-fixed" -- but when you're young & first in love, it feels like you're unstoppable and all-consumed and the first ones ever to feel that way.

Most everyone reads Shakespeare's sonnets in school, where they are picked apart and drained of life. But to read them again later, you can find sparkles of wordplay, and emotion, and passion that a classroom's hubbub smothers.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:51 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

george gray by edgar lee masters. i first read it in high school and every once in a while it comes back to me.

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me--
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I know she isn't to everyone's liking, but Salmon, by Jorie Graham is one of my favourites.


I watched them once, at dusk, on television, run,
in our motel room half-way through
Nebraska, quick, glittering, past beauty, past
the importance of beauty.,
not even hungry, not even endangered, driving deeper and deeper
into less. They leapt up falls, ladders,
and rock, tearing and leaping, a gold river,
and a blue river traveling
in opposite directions.
They would not stop, resolution of will
and helplessness, as the eye
is helpless
when the image forms itself, upside-down, backward,
driving up into
the mind, and the world
unfastens itself
from the deep ocean of the given. . .Justice, aspen
leaves, mother attempting
suicide, the white night-flying moth
the ants dismantled bit by bit and carried in
right through the crack
in my wall. . . .How helpless
the still pool is,
awaiting the gold blade
of their hurry. Once, indoors, a child,
I watched, at noon, through slatted wooden blinds,
a man and woman, naked, eyes closed,
climb onto each other,
on the terrace floor,
and ride--two gold currents
wrapping round and round each other, fastening,
unfastening. I hardly knew
what I saw. Whatever shadow there was in that world
it was the one each cast
onto the other,
the thin black seam
they seemed to be trying to work away
between them. I held my breath.
as far as I could tell, the work they did
with sweat and light
was good. I'd say
they traveled far in opposite
directions. What is the light
at the end of the day, deep, reddish-gold, bathing the walls,
the corridors, light that is no longer light, no longer clarifies,
illuminates, antique, freed from the body of
that air that carries it. What is it
for the space of time
where it is useless, merely
beautiful? When they were done, they made a distance
one from the other
and slept, outstretched,
on the warm tile
of the terrace floor,
smiling, faces pressed against the stone.
posted by Rumple at 10:53 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

An Ancient Gesture
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope…
Penelope, who really cried.
posted by prefpara at 11:37 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Quite possibly my favorite poem is Lapis Lazuli by William Butler Yeats. Modern readers may have to get past the "hysterical women" in the first line though.

I have heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.

All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,
Camel-back, horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp chimney shaped like the stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again
And those that build them again are gay.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

Every discolouration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.
posted by FencingGal at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2019

Thank you so much, everyone and I hope the posts will keep coming. I am wrapping up a semester so a bit behind on reading, but I am enjoying reading these so much. Here's one from Elizabeth Bishop called The Fish. I dedicate this to my daughter who teaches me to see with new eyes each day.

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
posted by CMcG at 12:29 PM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

My love is of a birth as rare
As ’tis for object strange and high;
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing
Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown,
But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic pow’r depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have plac’d,
(Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embrac’d;

Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp’d into a planisphere.

As lines, so loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet;
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.
The Definition of Love

Andrew Marvell
posted by y2karl at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2019

See also
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
To His Coy Mistress
posted by y2karl at 2:43 PM on April 24, 2019

"Unit of Measure"

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.

--Sandra Beasley
posted by lysimache at 4:21 PM on April 24, 2019 [10 favorites]

CMcG, thank you for this lovely thread! Also, I love Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish" and it always reminds me of another poem by the poet I cited, Leigh Hunt, "The Fish, the Man and the Spirit". A bit long to post here but easily found.

I'm going to post again because I remembered this one:

Romanesque arches
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.

An angel whose face I couldn't see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don't be ashamed to be a human being—be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You'll never be complete, and that's as it should be.

Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

(I can never find this the first time I look for it, because I always google "Transtromer Brahms poem" and obviously that doesn't work, except inside my head.)
posted by huimangm at 4:46 PM on April 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

So glad to have stumbled upon this thread! I'll add one of my favorites to the mix:

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 socialjusticeworrier at 5:21 PM on April 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

O WESTERN wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:38 PM on April 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

Cocodrillo, that reminds me of a bit by William Money Hardinge, based on an older, anonymous Greek text:

It's oh! to be a wild wind -
When my lady's in the sun -
She'd just unbind her neckerchief,
And take me breathing in.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:50 PM on April 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Country, by Billy Collins

I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice

might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.

Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe

behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,

the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time—

now a fire-starter, now a torchbearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,

lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country?
posted by slidell at 9:59 PM on April 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

"Normal Day" by Mary Jean Irion

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you,
bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.

Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow,
or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the sky and want,
more than all the world,
your return.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:57 PM on April 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

Also Raymond Carver, 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.
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:48 AM on April 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Failing and Flying, Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
posted by coppermoss at 5:27 AM on April 25, 2019 [8 favorites]

I've mentioned it on one of these sub-sites somewhere before, but my favorite all-around useful poem is Goethe's "Gefunden"

Ich ging im Walde
So für mich hin,
Und nichts zu suchen,
Das war mein Sinn.

Im Schatten sah ich
Ein Blümchen stehn,
Wie Sterne leuchtend,
Wie Äuglein schön.

Ich wollt es brechen,
Da sagt es fein:
Soll ich zum Welken
Gebrochen sein?

Ich grub's mit allen
Den Würzlein aus.
Zum Garten trug ich's
Am hübschen Haus 1).

Und pflanzt es wieder
Am stillen Ort;
Nun zweigt es immer
Und blüht so fort.


I was walking in the woods
Just on a whim of mine,
And seeking nothing,
That was my intention.

In the shade I saw
A little flower standing
Like stars glittering
Like beautiful little eyes.

I wanted to pick it
When it said delicately:
Should I just to wilt
Be picked?

I dug it out with all
Its little roots.
To the garden I carried it
by my cute little house.

And replanted it
In this quiet spot;
Now it keeps branching out
And blossoms ever forth.

It is the poem I pull out if I can't think of anything else at funerals and weddings, graduations and anniversaries, and generally anytime I want to talk about the importance of cultivation over curation.
posted by Tchad at 6:22 AM on April 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.

-Lin-Manuel Miranda
(please don't judge me!)
posted by kimberussell at 8:17 AM on April 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Mind from its object differs most in this:
Evil from good; misery from happiness;
The baser from the nobler; the impure
And frail, from what is clear and must endure.
If you divide suffering and dross, you may
Diminish till it is consumed away;
If you divide pleasure and love and thought,
Each part exceeds the whole; and we know not
How much, while any yet remains unshared,
Of pleasure may be gained, of sorrow spared:
This truth is that deep well, whence sages draw
The unenvied light of hope; the eternal law
By which those live, to whom this world of life
Is as a garden ravaged, and whose strife
Tills for the promise of a later birth
The wilderness of this Elysian earth.

(Section XII of Shelley's Epipsychidion)
posted by clew at 11:24 AM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wrote this last month and read it tonight at my local library’s poetry on the steps event:


You’re either the wolf or his feast.
One or the other: beauty or beast.

Hood wore red. The wolf salivated.
Odysseus traveled. Penelope waited.

But is it really a bad man’s world
Where women must clutch at pearls?

These are stories. Think portals, not cages.
People are people down through the ages.

The book’s being written. It’s not all been told.
Be you, as you are. Go on. Break the mold.
posted by CMcG at 6:15 PM on April 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thick as a Brick, by Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock

Really don't mind if you sit this one out
My words but a whisper, your deafness a shout
I may make you feel but I can't make you think
Your sperm's in the gutter, your love's in the sink
So you ride yourselves over the fields
And you make all your animal deals
And your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick

And the sand-castle virtues are all swept away
In the tidal destruction, the moral melee
The elastic retreat rings the close of play
As the last wave uncovers the newfangled way
But your new shoes are worn at the heels
And your suntan does rapidly peel
And your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick

And the love that I feel
Is so far away
I'm a bad dream
That I just had today
And you shake your head
And say it's a shame

Spin me back down the years
And the days of my youth
Draw the lace and black curtains
And shut out the whole truth
Spin me down the long ages
Let them sing the song

See there! A son is born
And we pronounce him fit to fight
There are black-heads on his shoulders
And he pees himself in the night
We'll make a man of him
Put him to a trade
Teach him to play Monopoly
And how to sing in the rain

The Poet and the Painter
Casting shadows on the water
As the sun plays on the infantry
Returning from the sea
The do-er and the thinker
No allowance for the other
As the failing light illuminates
The mercenary's creed
The home fire burning
The kettle almost boiling
But the master of the house
Is far away
The horses stamping
Their warm breath clouding
In the sharp and frosty morning
Of the day
And the poet lifts his pen
While the soldier sheaths his sword

And the youngest of the family
Is moving with authority
Building castles by the sea
He dares the tardy tide
To wash them all aside, oh

The cattle quietly grazing
At the grass down by the river
Where the swelling mountain water
Moves onward to the sea
The builder of the castles
Renews the age-old purpose
And contemplates the milking girl
Whose offer is his need
The young men of the household
Have all gone into service
And are not to be expected
For a year
The innocent young master
Thoughts moving ever faster
Has formed the plan
To change the man he seems
And the poet sheaths his pen
While the soldier lifts his sword

And the oldest of the family
Is moving with authority
Coming from across the sea
He challenges the son
Who puts him to the run

What do you do when the old man's gone
Do you want to be him?
And your real self sings the song
Do you want to free him?
No one to help you get up steam
And the whirlpool turns you way off-beam

I've come down from the upper class
To mend your rotten ways
My father was a man-of-power
Whom everyone obeyed

So come on all you criminals!
I've got to put you straight
Just like I did with my old man
Twenty years too late

Your bread and water's going cold
Your hair is too short and neat
I'll judge you all and make damn sure
That no-one judges me

You curl your toes in fun
As you smile at everyone
You meet the stares, you're unaware
That your doings aren't done
And you laugh most ruthlessly
As you tell us what not to be
But how are we supposed to see
Where we should run?

I see you shuffle in the courtroom with
Your rings upon your fingers
And your downy little sidies
And your silver-buckle shoes
Playing at the hard case
You follow the example
Of the comic-paper idol
Who lets you bend the rules

So, come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't you rise up from the pages
Of your comic-books, your super crooks
And show us all the way
Well! Make your will and testament
Won't you join your local government?
We'll have Superman for president
Let Robin save the day

You put your bet on number one
And it comes up every time
The other kids have all backed down
And they put you first in line
And so you finally ask yourself
Just how big you are
And you take your place in a wiser world
Of bigger motor cars
And you wonder who to call on

So! Where the hell was Biggles
When you needed him last Saturday?
And where were all the sportsmen
Who always pulled you though?
They're all resting down in Cornwall
Writing up their memoirs
For a paper-back edition
Of the Boy Scout Manual

See there! A man is born
And we pronounce him fit for peace
There's a load lifted from his shoulders
With the discovery of his disease
We'll take a child from him
Put it to the test
Teach it to be a wise man
And how to fool the rest

We will be geared to the average, rather than the exceptional
God is an overwhelming responsibility
We walked through the maternity ward
And saw 218 babies wearing nylons
It says here that cats are on the upgrade
Upgrade? Hipgrave
Oh, Mac

In the clear white circles of morning wonder
I take my place with the lord of the hills
And the blue-eyed soldiers stand slightly discoloured
In neat little rows sporting canvas frills
With their jock-straps pinching, they slouch to attention
While queuing for sarnies at the office canteen
Saying: "How's your granny?" and good old Ernie
He coughed up a tenner on a premium bond win

The legends worded in the ancient tribal hymn
Lie cradled in the seagull's call
And all the promises they made
Are ground beneath the sadist's fall

The poet and the wise man stand
Behind the gun, behind the gun
And signal for the crack of dawn
Light the sun, light the sun

Do you believe in the day?
Do you believe in the day?

The Dawn Creation of the Kings
Has begun, has begun
Soft Venus, lonely maiden brings
The ageless one, the ageless one

Do you believe in the day?
Do you believe in the day?

The fading hero has returned
To the night, to the night
And fully pregnant with the day
Wise men endorse the poet's sight

Do you believe in the day?
Do you believe in the day?

Let me tell you the tales of your life
Of your love and the cut of the knife
The tireless oppression, the wisdom instilled
The desire to kill or be killed
Well, let me sing of the losers who lie
In the street as the last bus goes by
The pavements are empty: the gutters run red
While the fool toasts his god in the sky

So come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year
And join your voices in a hellish chorus
Mark the precise nature of your fear

Let me help you pick up your dead
As the sins of the father are fed
With the blood of the fools and the thoughts of the wise and
From the pan under your bed
Well, let me make you a present of song
As the wise man breaks wind and is gone
While the fool with the hour-glass is cooking his goose
And the nursery rhyme winds along

So! Come all ye young men who are building castles!
Kindly state the time of the year
And join your voices in a hellish chorus
Mark the precise nature of your fear
See! The summer lightning casts its bolts upon you
And the hour of judgement draweth near
Would you be the fool stood in his suit of armour
Or the wiser man who rushes clear

So, come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't you rise up from the pages
Of your comic-books, your super crooks
And show us all the way
Well! Make your will and testament
Won't you join your local government?
We'll have Superman for president
Let Robin save the day

So! Where the hell was Biggles
When you needed him last Saturday?
And where were all the sportsmen
Who always pulled you though?
They're all resting down in Cornwall
Writing up their memoirs
For a paper-back edition
Of the Boy Scout Manual

So you ride yourselves over the fields
And you make all your animal deals
And your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick
posted by flabdablet at 8:09 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've always enjoyed hearing poems more than reading them.

Here are two of my favorites.

And another and another and another and another.

And some I typed in another thread.
posted by dobbs at 6:33 PM on April 27, 2019

Patricia Lockwood's "What is the zoo for what":

A fountain is a zoo for water, the song
is a zoo for sound, the harmonica
is a zoo for the hot breath of Neil Young,
vagina is a zoo for baby.

Baby, girl baby, is a zoo for vagina.

The rose is a zoo for the smell of the rose,
the smell of the rose rattles its cage,
the zookeeper throws something bleeding
to it, the something bleeding is not enough,
a toddler fell into the cage of the rose,
the toddler was entirely eaten. His name
was Rilke, it was in all the papers.
A Little Pine Box is a zoo for him now,
it said in all the papers.

Then all the kids started doing it. Falling
into the violet’s cage, approaching the cave
where the smell of violets slept, getting
their whole head clawed off by it.
Neil Young did it to a buttercup
and his face got absolutely mauled.

The music that was piped into the zoo
let all the longing escape from it
and it ran riot over the earth, full
of the sight of the smell of a buttercup
rearranging the face of Neil Young,
attacking pets at random, attacking
me in my bed as I slept, attacking
the happy wagging ends of my poems.

Can I put Neil Young in a poem.
Will he get trapped in there forever.

My voice is a zoo right now for this,
and this paces very much inside it,
it would like very much to escape
and eat hot blood again and go home,
and right down to the restless way
I walk I am an argument against zoos.

Zoo is very cruel. Let everything out
and live in the wild. Let it hunt for itself
again. Get the stink of human hand off it.

But the hand is a zoo for hold.
posted by ferret branca at 8:15 AM on April 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by W. B. Yeats.

Obligatory YouTube video link with sound of Yeats reading it.

Which of course makes my own pseudo cultic-twalotte idiocy stink even worse:
"I am the only outcast crow..."
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 9:12 AM on April 28, 2019

I love every bluejay
The way they reflect in sprinkler water
On the summer sidewalk
A moment of brilliance
The sky echoed blue!
Diligently working the grass for breakfast, or
Talking to me in
Sharp tones from our tree
Yes, yes those cats
Will be the death of me!
I always say, hey bluejay!
Hey bluejay!

Now after reflecting the morning sky
One last time, I nestle you
In the green waste.
I won't even take a feather
For memory, I am too far
On the path to gather souvenirs
Such as these, the weight of which
Pull my heart to sink in accordance
With gravity, to meet the gravel
On some bed alive with rivulets
And butterflies, and fish looking for
All the things.

So with these resigned pleadings for
A universe which brings your return,
I commit your blue feathers and perfect,
Natural mechanism of feet,
Stilled song trapped in closed beak,
To the green can, and a bed of
Comfortable leaves and thanks
For your being and all the others
Of your kind, who made my world
Bright, with blue flash, and notes of
Greeting all down my time.

posted by Oyéah at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

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