Saturday, September 21, 2013

Poetry about Love: Playlist for September 20, 2013

Love and Work

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009


In an uncurtained room across the way

a woman in a tight dress paints her lips

a deeper red, and sizes up her hips

for signs of ounces gained since yesterday.


She has a thoughtful and a clever face,

but she is also smart enough to know

the truth: however large the brain may grow,

the lashes and the earrings must keep pace.


Although I’ve spread my books in front of me

with a majestic air of I’ll show her,

I’m much less confident than I’d prefer,

and now I’ve started pacing nervously.


I’m poring over theorems, tomes and tracts.

I’m getting ready for a heavy date

by staying up ridiculously late.

But a small voice advises, Face the facts:


go on this way and you’ll soon come to harm.

The world’s most famous scholars wander down

the most appalling alleyways in town,

a blond and busty airhead on each arm.


There is an inner motor known as lust

that makes a man of learning walk a mile

to gratify his raging senses, while

the woman he can talk to gathers dust. 


A chilling vision of the years ahead

invades my thoughts, and widens like a stain:

a barren dance card and a teeming brain,

a crowded bookcase and an empty bed... 


What if I compromised? I’d stay up late

to hone my elocutionary skills,

and at the crack of dawn I’d swallow pills

to calm my temper and control my weight,


but I just can’t. Romantics, so far gone

they think their lovers live for wisdom, woo

by growing wiser; when I think of you

I find the nearest lamp and turn it on.


Great gods of longing, watch me as I work

and if I sprout a martyr’s smarmy grin

please find some violent way to do me in;

I’m burning all these candles not to shirk


a night of passion, but to give that night

a richly textured backdrop when it comes.

The girl who gets up from her desk and dumbs

her discourse down has never seen the flight


of wide-eyed starlings from their shabby cage;

the fool whose love is truest is the one

who knows a lover’s work is never done.

I’ll call you when I’ve finished one more page.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: What Is This Thing Called Love by Cole Porter



Epicoene, or the Silent Woman: Still to be neat, still to be drest

By Ben Jonson 1572–1637


Still to be neat, still to be drest,

As you were going to a feast;

Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd:

Lady, it is to be presum'd,

Though art's hid causes are not found,

All is not sweet, all is not sound. 

Give me a look, give me a face,

That makes simplicity a grace;

Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:

Such sweet neglect more taketh me

Than all th' adulteries of art;

They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Time Stands Still by John Dowland


To You

By Kenneth Koch 1925–2002

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut

That will solve a murder case unsolved for years

Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window

Through which he saw her head, connecting with

Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red

Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;

For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not

Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a

Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails

In the wind, when you’re near, a wind that blows from

The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;

I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields

Always, to be near you, even in my heart

When I’m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you

Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to

The place where I again think of you, a new

Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow

Of a ship which sails

From Hartford to Miami, and I love you

Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun

Receives me in the questions which you always pose.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: La plus que lente by Claude Debussy


Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,

which may not happen.

I would like to watch you,

sleeping. I would like to sleep

with you, to enter

your sleep as its smooth dark wave

slides over my head


and walk with you through that lucent

wavering forest of bluegreen leaves

with its watery sun & three moons

towards the cave where you must descend,

towards your worst fear


I would like to give you the silver

branch, the small white flower, the one

word that will protect you

from the grief at the center

of your dream, from the grief

at the center. I would like to follow

you up the long stairway

again & become

the boat that would row you back

carefully, a flame

in two cupped hands

to where your body lies

beside me, and you enter

it as easily as breathing in


I would like to be the air

that inhabits you for a moment

only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne by Wilhelm Stenhammer



I Knew a Woman

By Theodore Roethke 1908–1963


I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,

When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;  

Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:  

The shapes a bright container can contain!

Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,

Or English poets who grew up on Greek

(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).



How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,  

She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;  

She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;  

I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;  

She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,

Coming behind her for her pretty sake

(But what prodigious mowing we did make).



Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:

Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;

She played it quick, she played it light and loose;  

My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;  

Her several parts could keep a pure repose,  

Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose

(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).



Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:  

I’m martyr to a motion not my own;

What’s freedom for? To know eternity.

I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.  

But who would count eternity in days?

These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:  

(I measure time by how a body sways).
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Violin and Piano (Movements 2 & 3) by Maurice Ravel

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Poetry about Moments: Playlist for September 13, 2013

(“Sing the song of the moment...”)

By Rabindranath Tagore 1861–1941


Sing the song of the moment in careless carols, in the transient light of the day;

Sing of the fleeting smiles that vanish and never look back;

Sing of the flowers that bloom and fade without regret.

Weave not in memory’s thread the days that would glide into nights.

To the guests that must go bid God-speed, and wipe away all traces of their steps.

Let the moments end in moments with their cargo of fugitive songs.


With both hands snap the fetters you made with your own heart chords;

Take to your breast with a smile what is easy and simple and near.

Today is the festival of phantoms that know not when they die.         

Let your laughter flush in meaningless mirth like twinkles of light on the ripples;

Let your life lightly dance on the verge of Time like a  dew on the tip of a leaf.

Strike in the chords of your harp the fitful murmurs of moments.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne, by Alan Hovhaness


A Small Moment

By Cornelius Eady b. 1954

I walk into the bakery next door  

To my apartment. They are about  

To pull some sort of toast with cheese  

From the oven.   When I ask:  

What’s that smell? I am being  

A poet, I am asking   

What everyone else in the shop  

Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;  

I am speaking on behalf of two other  

Customers who wanted to buy the  

Name of it.   I ask the woman  

Behind the counter for a percentage  

Of her sale. Am I flirting?  

Am I happy because the days  

Are longer?   Here’s what  


She does: She takes her time  

Choosing the slices.   “I am picking  

Out the good ones,” she tells me.   It’s   

April 14th.. Spring, with five to ten   

Degrees to go.   Some days, I feel my duty;  

Some days, I love my work.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Blues for Byrd (not available) by Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie



By Robert Browning 1812–1889

Out of your whole life give but one moment!

All of your life that has gone before,

All to come after it, – so you ignore,

So you make perfect the present, – condense,

In a rapture of rage, for perfection’s endowment,

Thought and feeling and soul and sense –

Merged in a moment which gives me at last

You around me for once, you beneath me, above me –

Me – sure that despite of time future, time past, –

This tick of our life-time’s one moment you love me!

How long such suspension may linger? Ah, Sweet –

The moment eternal – just that and no more –

When ecstasy’s utmost we clutch at the core

While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet!
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Andante cantabile, from Piano Quartet by Robert Schumann


A Momentary Longing To Hear Sad Advice from One Long Dead

By Kenneth Koch 1925–2002  

Who was my teacher at Harvard. Did not wear overcoat

Saying to me as we walked across the Yard

Cold brittle autumn is you should be wearing overcoat. I said

You are not wearing overcoat. He said,

You should do as I say not do as I do.

Just how American it was and how late Forties it was

Delmore, but not I, was probably aware. He quoted Finnegans Wake to me

In his New York apartment sitting on chair

Table directly in front of him. There did he write? I am wondering.

Look at this photograph said of his mother and father.

Coney Island. Do they look happy? He couldn't figure it out.

Believed Pogo to be at the limits of our culture.

Pogo. Walt Kelly must have read Joyce Delmore said.

Why don't you ask him?

Why don't you ask Walt Kelly if he read Finnegans Wake or not.

Your parents don't look happy but it is just a photograph.

Maybe they felt awkward posing for photographs.

Maybe it is just a bad photograph. Delmore is not listening

I want to hear him tell me something sad but however true.

Delmore in his tomb is sitting. People say yes everyone is dying

But here read this happy book on the subject. Not Delmore. Not that rueful man.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Three Pieces by Francis Poulenc


This Moment

By Alice Wagner



This moment, fragile and transparent,

blows off the table, under foot and onto the street, behind its  gentleman caller


This moment, fleeting and hurried,

blurring faces, masking weakness and rushing meaning through hidden doorways


This moment intangible and foreign,

reaching through touch and feeling, past truth, forever shifting.


This moment, frightening and heartbreaking,

waking  passion, as loss hides behind you and meaning evaporates while you are still naming it.


Stay in this moment,

aching and blissful, strange and powerful,  beyond reason or guarantee.

Ask nothing of the future, carry nothing from the past, just this moment.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Drift, by Kenji Bunch (not available)