The other wedding poem

I was at a wedding this weekend, and had to choose a poem to read. I chose Cantatrice, by Berryman, but this was in the running till the last day:

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,

nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before. Continue reading

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The garden at its best

The Epiphyllum, an air plant, blooms once a year. The rest of the year it’s dull, flat brownish green. When it blooms, the whole garden glows.

One year, while auditing a class on prosody, I wrote a cinquain about it:

Bee in the Epiphyllun

From squat
slabs of cactus
they flame up, these giant
scentless siren calls. Even I
want in.















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From the wine-red selvage of the west…

This poem by William Carlos Williams is new to me, arriving in my email from the American Academy of Poets. I like it especially because of the last lines, which I might be in myself. And I like this very dorky picture of him, too.

A Love Song

I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
against a smooth purple sky! Continue reading

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Those Polish Poets

World War II and Poland seemed to create a unique environment for poetry. That unfortunate Catholic country, smack between Russia and Germany,  produced dozens of wise, chastened, articulate writers, many of whose poems I’ve posted in the past. One I hadn’t read before is Ryszard Krynicki.  He mostly writes short, bitter, ironic poems, like salt on the rim of the glass:


–What rights?
do you mean?
The right to life?
You can’t extend it even by an instant,
though you’re dying of curiosity:
who won, who killed.
–The right to fight?
The right of the fittest comes first…
So you’re speaking not of human
rights, Continue reading

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Children’s Poetry

I’ve been thinking a lot about rhyme lately, how it’s almost impossible to write a contemporary poem with conventional rhyme, but songs and nursery rhymes still rely on rhyme. Children especially love rhyme, and some of my favorite children’s poetry is by A.A. Milne, who in addition to Winnie the Pooh, has two books of children’s verse, Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young.

I was reciting these to my grandson the other day, to both of our delight:


James James				
Morrison Morrison			
Weatherby George Dupree			
Took great				
Care of his Mother			
Though he was only three.		
James James				
Said to his Mother,			
"Mother," he said, said he;		
"You must never go down to the end of the town, if
you don't go down with me."		

James James				
Morrison's Mother			
Put on a golden gown,			
James James				
Morrison's Mother			
Drove to the end of the town.		
James James				
Morrison's Mother			
Said to herself, said she:		
"I can get right down to the end of the town and be
back in time for tea."			

King John				
Put up a notice,			

James James				
Morrison Morrison			
(Commonly known as Jim)			
Told his				
Other relations				
Not to go blaming him.			
James James				
Said to his Mother,			
"Mother," he said, said he,		
"You must never go down to the end of the town with-
out consulting me."			

James James				
Morrison's Mother			
Hasn't been heard of since.		
King John				
Said he was sorry,			
So did the Queen and Prince.		
King John				
(Somebody told me)			
Said to a man he knew:			
"If people go down to the end of the town, well, what
can anyone do?"				

(Now then, very softly)			
J. J.					
M. M.					
W. G. du P.				
Took great				
C/o his M*****				
Though he was only 3.			
J. J.					
Said to his M*****			
"M*****," he said, said he:		
you-don't-go-down-with ME!"


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Monday poem

This was one of the poetry selections by the American Academy of Poets for Mother’s Day–it seems to me a sort of love poem from a mother to a teenage child. I like its strange title.

Hours Days Years Unmoor Their Orbits

tonight I’m cleaning baby portobellos
for you, my young activist

wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth
as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries

for you to adorn your fingertips
before eating each blood-red prize

these days you rarely look me in the eye
& your long shagged hair hides your smile Continue reading

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The last group of baby chicks is now starting to lay the lovely pullet eggs, small and beautiful. We cracked one yesterday, and the small egg had two small yolks. I’ve had big eggs with two yolks before, but never a small one.

And the garden!

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Poem in your pocket

3Poetry month just ended, and the Berkeley Library printed some wonderful poems by local poets. When soliciting work, they sent out a sample of last year’s choices and I liked this one by Ed Hirsch:

Cotton Candy

We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River
for what turned out to be the last time,
and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air,
that sweet blue light sun out of nothingness. Continue reading

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Essy Stone

Thanks to a workshop with David St. John, I heard about a poet who is currently his student at USC. Essy Stone’s book, What It Done to Us, is a group of gripping, tough poems that seem to be written by someone who came up hard and made something of it.

Here’s a sample. Reading it, I wondered if the title came from the Tracy Chapman song, but perhaps not.

Fast Car

At 15, you are skinny & never loved enough,
with the loss of it burning you up & pounding
between your ribs like your daddy’s heavy footsteps
as he comes up on your door. You bite holes
in the sleeves of a hand-me-down homeschooler’s sweatshirt
to sate this hunger, but it don’t fill you,
a little outsider in a brown land—brown without end,
full of brown horses & cattle & trees, the houses wooden
& their tin roofs rusted the same orange-brown
as the clay & the sunburnt skin of the people who live here,
while you try, oh, desperately, to coax something green
into being, to make a thing as green & new as yourself,
or if not green, if not alive, then shiny & mechanical
& humming along fast like your mama’s Singer, Continue reading

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Alicia Ostriker

Though I haven’t read much of her, what I’ve seen, I like. This from Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series:


It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

Continue reading

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