Fox Cub Eyes

Apologies

Moments when I care about nothing except an apple: red as a maple tree satin and speckled tart and winy. Moments when body is all: fast as an elevator pulsing out waves of darkness hot as the inner earth molten and greedy. Moments when sky fills my head: bluer than thought cleaner than number with a wind fresh and sour cold from the mouth of the sea. Moments of sinking…

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Letting Go

To Have Without Holding

Learning to love differently is hard, love with the hands open wide, love with the doors banging on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds that thwack like rubber bands in an open palm. It hurts to love wide open stretching the muscles that feel as if they are made of wet plaster, then of blunt knives…

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The Speaker

The speaker points out that we don't really have much of a grasp of things, not only the big things, the important questions, but the small everyday things. "How many steps up to your front door? What kind of tree grows in your backyard? What is the name of your district representative? What is your wife's shoe size? Can you tell me the color of your sweetheart's eyes? Do you…

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The Couple

They no longer sleep quite as well as they did when they were younger. He lies awake thinking of things that happened years ago, turning uncomfortably from time to time, pulling on the blankets. She worries about money. First one and then the other is awake during the night, in shifts as if keeping watch, though they can't see very much in the dark and it's quiet. They are sentries…

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The Sun Grows In Your Smile

When you smile, the air grows warm and soft, the earth is watered with gentle mists, seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil, earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins, lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises, fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies, damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind…

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Meditation on the Word Need

The problem with words of emotion is how easily meaning drains from their fiddle-sweet sounds and they become empty instruments. I can say love and mean desire to give-- open-handed, open-hearted-- or I am drawn to the light shining from your soul-- or my life is empty without you-- or I want to run my hands and mouth down the length of you-- or all of these at once. Need…

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Things I Didn't Know I Loved

I always knew I loved the sky, the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time; the way it disappears above us even as we pursue it in a climbing plane, like wishes or answers to certain questions--always out of reach; the way it embodies blue, even when it is gray. But I didn't know I loved the clouds, those shaggy eyebrows glowering over the face of the…

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Questions

If on a summer afternoon a man should find himself in love with only one woman in a sea of women, all the others mere half-naked swimmers and floaters, and if that one woman therefore is clad in radiance while the mere others are burdened by their bikinis, then what does he do with a world suddenly so small, the once unbiased sun shining solely on her? And if that…

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Rendezvous

Let's meet in Santa Fe where we can stroll holding hands along the acequina madre then sip espresso at the bookstore on Garcia Street. Let's meet in Santa Fe and bask like lizards on the rocks at Bandelier or explore the secrets of remote creek beds. Let's meet in Santa Fe to share our stories and let the whisper of cottonwood leaves fill the silences between. Let's meet in Santa…

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The Ancient of Days

Song Of Myself - Leaves Of Grass, Verse 20

Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude; How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat? What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you? All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own, Else it were time lost listening to me. I do not snivel that snivel the world over, That months are vacuums and the ground but wallow and filth…

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My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother’s countenance Could not unfrown itself. The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle; At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle. You beat time on my head With a…

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Broken Promises

I have met them in dark alleys, limping and one-armed; I have seen them playing cards under a single light-bulb and tried to join in, but they refused me rudely, knowing I would only let them win. I have seen them in the foyers of theaters, coming back late from the interval long after the others have taken their seats, and in deserted shopping malls late at night, peering at…

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Early Sunday Morning

I used to mock my father and his chums for getting up early on Sunday morning and drinking coffee at a local spot, but now I'm one of those chumps. No one cares about my old humiliations, but they go on dragging through my sleep like a string of empty tin cans rattling behind an abandoned car. It's like this: just when you think you have forgotten that red-haired girl…

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Taken

First, you must let your heart be broken open in a way you have never felt before, cannot imagine. You will not know if what you are feeling is anguish or joy, something predestined or merely old wounds flowing once more, reminders of all that is unfinished in your life. Something will flood into your chest like air sweetened by desert honeysuckle, love that is too strong. You will stand…

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The Raven

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door; Only this, and nothing more." Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying…

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What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work You know what work is — if you’re old enough to read this you know what work is, although you may not do it. Forget you. This is about waiting, shifting from one foot to another. Feeling the light rain falling like mist into your hair, blurring your vision until you think you see…

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Salt and Oil

Three young men in dirty work clothes on their way home or to a bar in the late morning. This is not a photograph, it is a moment in the daily life of the world, a moment that will pass into the unwritten biography of your city or my city unless it is frozen in the fine print of our eyes. I turn away to read the morning paper and…

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Fear and Fame

Half an hour to dress, wide rubber hip boots, gauntlets to the elbow, a plastic helmet like a knight’s but with a little glass window that kept steaming over, and a respirator to save my smoke-stained lungs. I would descend step by slow step into the dim world of the pickling tank and there prepare the new solutions from the great carboys of acids lowered to me on ropes…

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Belle Isle, 1949

We stripped in the first warm spring night and ran down into the Detroit River to baptize ourselves in the brine of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles, melted snow. I remember going under hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl I'd never seen before, and the cries our breath made caught at the same time on the cold, and rising through the layers of darkness into the final…

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A Celebration Of Charis

Let it not your wonder move, Less your laughter, that I love. Though I now write fifty years, I have had, and have, my peers; Poets, though divine, are men, Some have lov'd as old again. And it is not always face, Clothes, or fortune, gives the grace; Or the feature, or the youth. But the language and the truth, With the ardour and the passion, Gives the lover weight…

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Haiku

kawazu tobikomu / mizu no oto an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water iza saraba / yukimi ni korobu / tokoromade now then, let's go out / to enjoy the snow... until / I slip and fall! Basho-Chusonji 1644-1694 Photo Credit: Koi Pond…

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You Can't Have It All

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back. You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look Of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite every sorrow…

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Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size But when I start to tell them, They think I'm telling lies. I say, It's in the reach of my arms The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips. I'm a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me. I walk into a room Just as cool…

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Pulse Of The Morning — The Inaugural Poem

A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed, Marked the mastodon. The dinosaur, who left dry tokens Of their sojourn here On our planet floor, Any broad alarm of their hastening doom Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages. But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully, Come, you may stand upon my Back and face your distant destiny, But seek no…

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A Light Left On

In the evening we came back Into our yellow room, For a moment taken aback To find the light left on, Falling on silent flowers, Table, book, empty chair While we had gone elsewhere, Had been away for hours. When we came home together We found the inside weather. All of our love unended The quiet light demanded, And we gave, in a look At yellow walls and open book…

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After School On Ordinary Days

After school on ordinary days we listened to The Shadow and The Lone Ranger as we gathered around the tabletop radio that was always kept on the china cabinet built into the wall in that tenement kitchen, a china cabinet that held no china, except thick and white and utilitarian, cups and saucers, poor people's cups from the 5 & 10 cent store. My mother was always home from Ferraro's…

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Remembrance

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee, Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave! Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave? Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover Over the mountains, on that northern shore, Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover That noble heart for ever, ever more? Cold in the earth…

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DragonFly

DragonFlies At Dawn

They couple above this still pool, red rusted male in front, four wings blurring the light; butterscotch-colored female anchored to his tail. They careen into grass stalks, then explode across vast distances. The lightness of their bodies, heaviness of my own. Their ballet singes the air with red wheeling fire as his abdomen curls back to hers to fertilize mid-flight--a snake eating its tail. Now they skitter from safe harbor…

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Ithaka

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

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There Are Not Many Kingdoms Left

I write the lips of the moon upon her shoulders. In a temple of silvery farawayness I guard her to rest. For her bed I write a stillness over all the swans of theworld. With the morning breath of the snow leopard I cover her against any hurt. Using the pen of rivers and mountaintops I store her pillow with singing. Upon her hair I write the looking of the…

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Man & Woman

As We Are So Wonderfully Done With Each Other

As we are so wonderfully done with each other We can walk into our separate sleep On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak of childhood lies O my lady, my fairest dear, my sweetest, loveliest one Your lips have splashed my dull house with the speech of flowers My hands are hallowed where they touched over your soft curving. It is good to be weary from that brilliant work…

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Blacksmith

The Shop

There was a window filtering the sunlight, dusty as it came, and boxes of nails, long and dark, tin-colored and squat, boxes of silver bolts, washers and screws, tacks, inch-long staples. The vice that could crush a finger hung open jawed on the edge of the workbench; the welding mask tilted its flat and mouthless face towards the rafters. The old harnesses hung in the back corner, their work-lathered leather…

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Moments

If I could master just one art, it would be the art of letting go: of people I have known and loved, of places I’ve traveled to and lived of sunsets and full moons I’ve witnessed. I would let go of this moment as quickly as it appears, faster if I could. I would let go of things I wished for and especially those wishes which came true…

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The Crushing Weight Of Good Bye

I never thought the last time we said, “Good bye,” would be the last time. If I had known, I would have done it differently. I would have said to you one more time, “I love you.” Though I told you all the time, this time would have been different— if I had known. Our last embrace would have been much tighter and a lot longer. Our last kiss, more…

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We Never Know

He danced with tall grass for a moment, like he was swaying with a woman. Our gun barrels glowed white-hot. When I got to him, a blue halo of flies had already claimed him. I pulled the crumbled photograph from his fingers. There's no other way to say this: I fell in love. The morning cleared again, except for a distant mortar & somewhere choppers taking off. I slid the…

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Dreams

All night the dark buds of dreams open richly. In the center of every petal is a letter, and you imagine if you could only remember and string them all together they would spell the answer. It is a long night, and not an easy one— you have so many branches and there are diversions— birds that come and go, the black fox that lies down to sleep beneath you…

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Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

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…

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Messenger

My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird— equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be…

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Self-Portrait

I wish I was twenty and in love with life and still full of beans. Onward, old legs! There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side the roses are blooming and finding their labor no adversity to the spirit. Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea shining like a song, like a body I want to touch though I'm not twenty and won't…

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The Journey

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice — though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations — though their…

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The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where in the pinewoods in the moments between the darkness and first light two deer came walking down the hill and when they saw me they said to each other, okay, this one is okay, let's see who she is and why she is sitting on the ground like that, so quiet, as if asleep, or in a dream, but, anyway, harmless; and so they came on their slender…

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Walking To Oak-Head Pond

What is so utterly invisible as tomorrow? Not love, not the wind, not the inside of stone. Not anything. And yet, how often I'm fooled- I'm wading along in the sunlight- and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining days ahead- I can see the light spilling like a shower of meteors into next week's trees, and I plan to be there soon- and, so far…

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There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves

There are men too gentle to live among wolves Who prey upon them with IBM eyes And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon. There are men too gentle for a savage world Who dream instead of snow and children and Halloween And wonder if the leaves will change their color soon. There are men too gentle to live among wolves Who anoint them for burial with greedy…

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When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone

When one has lived a long time alone, one wants to live again among men and women, to return to that place where one's ties with the human broke, where the disquiet of death and now also of history glimmers its firelight on faces, where the gaze of the new baby looks past the gaze of the great granny, and where lovers speak, on lips blowsy from kissing, that language…

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I Like My Body When It Is With Your

i like my body when it is with your body. It is so quite new a thing. Muscles better and nerves more. i like your body. i like what it does, i like its hows. i like to feel the spine of your body and its bones, and the trembling -firm-smooth ness and which i will again and again and again kiss, i like kissing this and that of you…

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Why Then Have To Be Human?

Why, then, have to be human? Oh not because happiness exists, Nor out of curiosity... But because being here means so much; because everything here, vanishing so quickly, seems to need us, and strangely keeps calling to us... To have been here once, completely, even if only once, to have been at one with the earth— This is beyond undoing. Rainer Maria Rilke 1875-1926 Photo Credit: Opening To Morning, Tao…

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Straightpins

Growing up in a small town, we didn't notice the background figures of our lives, gray men, gnarled women, dropping from us silently like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor. The old did not die but simply vanished like discs of snow on our tongues. We knew nothing then of nothingness or pain or loss-- our days filled with open fields, football, turtles and cows. One day we noticed Death has…

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Designed to Fly

After ten hours of trying the instructor undid my fingers, peeled them one by one off the joystick. "You don't need to hold the plane in the air," he advised. "It's designed to fly. A hint of aileron, a touch of rudder, is all that is required." I looked at him like I'd seen God. Those props and struts he mentioned, they too, I realized, all contrived. I grew dizzy…

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One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. The art of losing isn't hard to master. Then practice losing farther, losing faster: places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring…

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Brink Of Eternity

In desperate hope I go and search for her in all the corners of my room; I find her not. My house is small and what once has gone from it can never be regained. But infinite is thy mansion, my lord, and seeking her I have to come to thy door. I stand under the golden canopy of thine evening sky and I lift my eager eyes to thy…

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Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed; And on…

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Once In A While

Mother was agitated all morning. A call had come from her brother Harold, who was spoken of only in whispers and despised by those with a talent for never changing their minds. But Mother loved him. Somehow I learned that my uncle had forged checks and spent time in prison. And I knew he played the saxophone in small jazz bands. In late afternoon the doorbell rang. My uncle stood…

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In My Next Life

I will own a sailboat sleek as fingers of wind and ply the green islands of the gulf of Maine. In my next life I will pilot a plane, and enjoy the light artillery of the air as I fly to our island and set down with aplomb on its grass runway. I'll be a whiz at math, master five or six of the world's languages, write poems strong as…

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Why Does The Cloud Rain?

Why does the cloud rain? Possibility one: It is what the cloud does It cannot help itself Water amasses And the cloud's memory Is gorged with the urge to flow The Earth Must not assume itself culprit For the generous showers Why does the cloud rain? Possibility two: It is the verdant Earth Lush with thirst Beneath That summons the wind To murmur its seductive invitation To the cloud Otherwise…

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Miracle Of Bubbles

A woman drives to the video store to rent a movie. It is Saturday night, she is thinking of nothing in particular, perhaps of how later she will pop popcorn or hold hands with her husband and pretend they are still in high school. On the way home a plane drops from the sky, the wing shearing her roof of her car, killing her instantly. Here is a death, it…

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Sunset at Calar Alto Observatory

Gift

A day so happy. Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden. Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers. There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess. I knew no one worth my envying him. Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot. To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me. In my body I felt no pain. When straightening up, I saw the blue…

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Inferno — Canto I

Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost. Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, Which in the very thought renews the fear. So bitter is it, death is little more; But of the good to treat, which there I found, Speak will I of the…

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Introduction To Poetry

I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name…

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Books

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus I can hear the library humming in the night, a choir of authors murmuring inside their books along the unlit, alphabetical shelves, Giovanni Pontoon next to Pope, Dumas next to his son, each one stitched into his own private coat, together forming a low, gigantic chord of language. I picture a figure in the act of reading, shoes on a desk, head…

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Dharma

The way the dog trots out the front door every morning without a hat or an umbrella, without any money or the keys to her dog house never fails to fill the saucer of my heart with milky admiration. Who provides a finer example of a life without encumbrance-- Thoreau in his curtainless hut with a single plate, a single spoon? Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers? Off…

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Westeria

Field Guide

No one I ask knows the name of the flower we pulled the car to the side of the road to pick and that I point to dangling purple from my lapel. I am passing through the needle of spring in North Carolina, as ignorant of the flowers of the south as the woman at the barbecue stand who laughs and the man who gives me a look as he…

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The Effort

Would anyone care to join me in flicking a few pebbles in the direction of teachers who are fond of asking the question: "What is the poet trying to say?" as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts-- inarticulate wretches that they were, biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue. Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell and the…

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In The Lobby Of The Hotel del Mayo

The girl in the lobby reading a leather-bound book. The man in the lobby using a broom. The boy in the lobby watering plants. The desk clerk looking at his nails. The woman in the lobby writing a letter. The old man in the lobby sleeping in his chair. The fan in the lobby revolving slowly overhead. Another hot Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, the girl lays her finger between the pages…

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Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, What you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a…

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When I Look At The Old Car

When I look at the old car backed into the cleared-out space in the shed, I can almost understand those bewildered men who leave their softening wives in middle age, up- and-walk-out after decades of marriage and family, to take up with some buffed and waxed young thing with great lines, horsepower to burn and a dazzling array of untested equipment. When I look at the old car's headlights, dulled…

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XVII I Do Not Love You

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz, or the arrows of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadows and the soul. I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries inside itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth…

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XCIV If I Die...

If I die, survive me with such sheer force that you awaken the furies of the pallid and the cold, from south to south lift your indelible eyes, from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth. I don't want your laughter or your steps to waver, I don't want my heritage of joy to die. Don't call up my person. I am absent. Live in my absence as if…

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Free

I was always thinking about her even when I wasn’t thinking. Days went by when I did little else. She had left me one night as a complete surprise. I didn’t know where she went. I didn’t know if she was ever coming back. I searched her dresser and closet for any clues. There wasn’t anything there, nothing. No lotions or creams in the bathroom. She…

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Walking At Night

Now that she is old, the young men don't approach her so the nights are free, the streets at dusk that were so dangerous have become as safe as the meadow. By midnight, the town's quiet. Moonlight reflects off the stone walls; on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late, the doors are locked, the windows darkened…

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Parable

First divesting ourselves of worldly goods, as St. Francis teaches, in order that our souls not be distracted by gain and loss, and in order also that our bodies be free to move easily at the mountain passes, we had then to discuss whither or where we might travel, with the second question being should we have a purpose, against which many of us argued fiercely that such purpose corresponded…

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Wondrous The Merge

Had my soul tottered off to sleep taking my potency with it? Had they both retired before I could leaving me a classroom somnambulist? Why else should I at sixty-one feel myself shriveling into fadeout? Then on a cold seminar Monday in walked an unannounced redeemer disguised as a taciturn student Brisk and resolute in scruffy mufti he set down his backpack shook his hair and offered me unequivocal devotion…

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Résumé

I have bushy brows loose bowels...and bright ideas but I also have what the Irishman said of the duck the kind of foot all hell couldn't trip up I sprint and I slump I jog and I amble I shout in my closet and whisper in the forum I'm a dogood nogood doing myself no harm In my garden I raise perennial laughing stock and grow enough folly to…

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Figs

Italians know how to call a fig a fig: fica. Mandolin-shaped fruit, feminine as seeds, amber or green and bearing large leaves to clothe our nakedness. I believe it was not an apple but a fig Lucifer gave Eve, knowing she would find a fellow feeling in this female fruit and knowing also that Adam would lose himself in the fig's fertile heart whatever the price-- God's wrath, expulsion angry…

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Parable Of The Four Poster Bed

Because she wants to touch him, she moves away. Because she wants to talk to him, she keeps silent. Because she wants to kiss him, she turns away & kisses a man she does not want to kiss. He watches thinking she does not want him. He listens hearing her silence. He turns away thinking her distant & kisses a girl he does not want to kiss. They marry each…

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Ghosts

If a boat on water asked the water to be still, that's the nature of my want. You wash over me in gusts. Few things can be held in hand, fewer than the mind. And the heart, holder of innumerable devotions, has no compass, only scale to overcome the soul's indifference. The eyes are doors but otherwise are useless. There are many ways to navigate, to be misled. So I…

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Love After Love

The time will come when with elation, You will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, Sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your Self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who…

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The Green Flash

And the sea’s skin heaves, saurian, and the spikes of the agave bristle like a tusked beast bowing to charge tonight the full moon will soar floating without any moral or simile the wind will bend the longbows of the arching casuarinas the lizard will still scuttle and the sun will sink silently with a stake in its eye bleeding behind the shrouding sail of a skeletal schooner. You…

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Clouds @ Mogollon Rim

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with the lightest touch, a breeze arriving from nowhere, a whispered healing arrival, a word in your ear, a settling into things, then like a hand in the dark it arrests the whole body, steeling you for revelation. In the silence that follows a great line you can feel Lazarus deep inside even the laziest, most deathly afraid part of you, lift up his hands and walk…

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Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone. As if life were a progressive and cunning crime with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely, even you, at times, have felt the grand array; the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding out your solo voice You must note the way the soap dish…

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On A Perfect Day

... I eat an artichoke in front of the Charles Street Laundromat and watch the clouds bloom into white flowers out of the building across the way. The bright air moves on my face like the touch of someone who loves me. Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens through membranes of vacancy. A ship, riding the bright glissade of the Hudson, slips past the end of the street. Colette's vagabond says…

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To Drink

I want to gather your darkness in my hands, to cup it like water and drink. I want this in the same way as I want to touch your cheek - it is the same - the way a moth will come to the bedroom window in late September, beating and beating its wings against cold glass, the way a horse will lower his long head to water, and drink…

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Respite

Day after quiet day passes. I speak to no one besides the dog. To her, I murmur much I would not otherwise say. We make plans then break them on a moment's whim. She agrees; though sometimes bringing to my attention a small blue ball. Passing the fig tree I see it is suddenly huge with green fruit, which may ripen or not. Near the gate, I stop to watch…

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For the Artist At the Start of Day

May morning be astir with the harvest of night; Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question, Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse That cut right through the surface to a source. May this be a morning of innocent beginning, When the gift within you slips clear Of the sticky web of the personal With its hurt and its hauntings, And fixed fortress corners, A Morning when…

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Jubliee

Come down to the water. Bring your snare drum, your hubcaps, the trash can lid. Bring every joyful noise you've held at bay so long. The fish have risen to the surface this early morning: flounder, shrimp, and every blue crab this side of Mobile. Bottom feeders? Please. They shine like your Grandpa Les' Cadillac, the one you rode in, slow so all the girls could see. They called to…

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The Lesson Of The Moth

i was talking to a moth the other evening he was trying to break into an electric light bulb and fry himself on the wires why do you fellows pull this stunt i asked him because it is the conventional thing for moths or why if that had been an uncovered candle instead of an electric light bulb you would now be a small unsightly cinder have you no sense…

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Old In The City

You grow geraniums And crochet baby-bonnets But you walk slowly Every day more slowly As if there were a rock In your poor belly You stay away from doctors They'd send you to the hospital Where pieces are cut out of you And after that you die Instead you walk to the park Where there are oaks and elm trees That stream up to the sun With triumph in their…

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Quatrains

36 When I am with you, we stay up all night. When you're not here, I can't go to sleep. Praise God for these two insomnias! And the difference between them. 82 Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of…

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Agony and Ecstasy

The Agony and Ecstasy of Divine Discontent

In the orchard and rose garden I long to see your face. In the taste of Sweetness I long to kiss your lips. In the shadows of passion I long for your love. Oh! Supreme Lover! Let me leave aside my worries. The flowers are blooming with the exultation of your Spirit. By Allah! I long to escape the prison of my ego and lose myself in the mountains and…

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My Bohemian Life

I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets; My overcoat too was becoming ideal; I travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal; Oh dear me! what marvelous loves I dreamed of! My only pair of breeches had a big whole in them. – Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way. My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear. – My stars in…

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Mandrake

My Father Is A Retired Magician

my father is a retired magician which accounts for my irregular behavior everythin comes outta magic hats or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958 my daddy retired from magic & took up another trade cuz this friend of mine from the 3rd grade asked to be made white on the spot what cd any…

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where the sidewalk ends

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would not take the garbage out! She'd scour the pots and scrape the pans, Candy the yams and spice the hams, And though her daddy would scream and shout, She simply would not take the garbage out. And so it piled up to the ceilings: Coffee grounds, potato peelings, Brown bananas, rotten peas, Chunks of sour cottage cheese. It filled the can, it covered the floor…

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Everything On It

I asked for a hot dog With everything on it. And that was my big mistake, 'Cause it came with a parrot, A bee in a bonnet. A wristwatch, a wrench, and a rake. It came with a goldfish, A flag, and a fiddle, A frog, and a front porch swing, And a mouse in a mask— That's the last time I ask For a hot dog with everything. Shel…

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Quietly

Lying here quietly beside you, My cheek against your firm, quiet thighs, The calm music of Boccherini Washing over us in the quiet, As the sun leaves the housetops and goes Out over the Pacific, quiet- So quiet the sun moves beyond us, So quiet as the sun always goes, So quiet, our bodies, worn with the Times and the penances of love, our Brains curled, quiet in their shells…

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Kaddish

It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder. Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shouldering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant -- and the sky above -- an old blue place. or down the Avenue to the South, to ˆ as I walked toward the Lower East Side ˆ where you walked 50…

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Five A.M.

Elan that lifts me above the clouds into pure space, timeless, yea eternal Breath transmuted into words Transmuted back to breath in one hundred two hundred years nearly Immortal, Sappho's 26 centuries of cadenced breathing -- beyond time, clocks, empires, bodies, cars, chariots, rocket ships skyscrapers, Nation empires brass walls, polished marble, Inca Artwork of the mind -- but where's it come from? Inspiration? The muses drawing breath for you…

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On Kusu Terrace

The old gardens of Kusu Terrace are a wilderness, yet the willows that remain still put out new branches; lasses gathering water chestnuts sing so loudly and with such clarity, that the feeling of spring returns to us; but where once stood the palace of the King of Wu, now only the moon over the west river once shone on the lovely ladies there. Li Po 701-762 Photo Credit: MoonRise…

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The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, There lies a leafy island Where flapping herons wake The drowsy water rats; There we've hid our faery vats, Full of berrys And of reddest stolen cherries. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. Where the wave of…

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The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly…

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Sonnet 91

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, Some in their wealth, some in their body's force; Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill; Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse; And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure, Wherein it finds a joy above the rest: But these particulars are not my measure; All these I better in one general best. Thy love is better than…

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I, Too

I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table When company comes. Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” Then. Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed— I, too, am America. Langston Hughes 1902-1967 Photo Credit…

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The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers: I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathe in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when…

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A Great Day In Harlem

Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? Langston Hughes 1902-1967 Photo Credit: A Great Day In Harlem by Art Kane …

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Halley's Comet

Miss Murphy in first grade wrote its name in chalk across the board and told us it was roaring down the stormtracks of the Milky Way at frightful speed and if it wandered off its course and smashed into the earth there'd be no school tomorrow. A red-bearded preacher from the hills with a wild look in his eyes stood in the public square at the playground's edge proclaiming he…

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The Portrait

My mother never forgave my father for killing himself, especially at such an awkward time and in a public park, that spring when I was waiting to be born. She locked his name in her deepest cabinet and would not let him out, though I could hear him thumping. When I came down from the attic with the pastel portrait in my hand of a long-lipped stranger with a brave…

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Conversation Among The Ruins

Through portico of my elegant house you stalk With your wild furies, disturbing garlands of fruit And the fabulous lutes and peacocks, rending the net Of all decorum which holds the whirlwind back. Now, rich order of walls is fallen; rooks croak Above the appalling ruin; in bleak light Of your stormy eye, magic takes flight Like a daunted witch, quitting castle when real days break. Fractured pillars frame prospects…

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The Layers

I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle not to stray. When I look behind, as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey, I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites, over which…

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After A Death

Once there was a shock that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail. It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy. It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires. One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun through brush where a few leaves hang on. They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories. Names swallowed by the cold. It is still beautiful to hear…

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Flower In The Crannied Wall

Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower—but if I could understand What you are, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is. Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809-1892 Photo Credit: Flowers Growing From The Wall…

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When I Loved Myself Enough

When I loved myself enough I came to know my own goodness. When I loved myself enough I began taking the gift of life seriously and gratefully. I began walking and taking the stairs every chance I get, And choosing the scenic route. I came to love being alone surrounded by silence awed by its spell listening to inner space. I came to see emotional pain as a signal I…

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The Ordinary

It's summer, so the pink gingham shorts, the red mower, the neat rows of clean smelling grass unspooling behind the sweeping blades. A dragonfly, black body big as a finger, will not leave the mower alone, loving the sparkle of scarlet metal, seeing in even a rusting paint the shade of a flower. But I wave him off, conscious he is wasting his time, conscious I am filling my time…

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Pulse Of The Evening

The Great Poem

The great poem is always possible. Think of Keats and his odes. But we shouldn't have to be dying, What I'm writing now is not the great poem. After a few lines I could tell. It may not even be a particularly good poem, although it's too early to decide about that. Keep going, I say. See what happens. But trying hard is one of the problems. since it shows…

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The Weary Blues

The Weary Blues

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway. . . . He did a lazy sway. . . . To the tune o’ those Weary Blues. With his ebony hands on each ivory key He made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues…

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Daffodils

I wander'd lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretch'd in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay; Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing…

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Study Of The Object

1 The most beautiful is the object which does not exist it does not serve to carry water or to preserve the ashes of a hero it was not cradled by Antigone nor was a rat drowned in it it has no hole and is entirely open seen from every side which means hardly anticipated the hairs of all its lines join in one stream of light neither blindness nor…

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