Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poetry about Movement: Playlist for October 10, 2014

The Messenger

By  Eleanor Wilner  

The messenger runs, not carrying the news

of victory, or defeat; the messenger, unresting,

   has always been running, the wind before and behind him,

    across the turning back of earth, leaving

      his tracks across the plains, his ropes

       hanging from the ledges of mountains;

         for centuries, millennia, he has been running

       carrying whatever it is that cannot be

      put down: it is rolled in a tube

    made of hide, carefully, to keep it dry

   as he runs, through storms and monsoons,

sometimes on foot, sometimes poling a boat  

through a flooded mangrove swamp, or  

   setting stiff sails to cross from island to island

    running before the wind. In some ages, peasants

      have helped him—bringing him small cakes

       of rice wrapped in the weeds of the sea and

         new sandals woven of hemp for his torn

       bleeding feet; sometimes in the heat of noon

      they would offer a drink of rosewater, sometimes

   a coat of fur against the winter snows;  

and sometimes at night, he would rest

by a fire where voices wove with the music

   of gut-strings, or with mountain pipes whose

    sound was like wind through the bones

      of creation—and he would be cheered

       by the company of others, the firelit glow

         of their faces like a bright raft afloat in the dark;

       at times, rumors spread of his death, scholars

      analyzed his obsession, dated his bones, his prayer bundle;

   but at dawn, he always arose, in the mists,

in the blur of so many mornings, so many shoes

worn into scraps and discarded, so many  

   the cities that burned as he passed

    them, so many the skulls abandoned

      by armies, so many whose blood

       stained the threads of their prayer rugs,  

         so many, so many, so many—


    and that green, sunlit hill that kept

   rising from the dark waters of flood, outlined bright  

against the sky, the odds, the evidence—

and he, the messenger,

running through history, carries this small tube,

   its durable hide—carries it, not like  

    a torch, no, nothing so blazing;

      not like the brass lamp that summons

       a genie, no magic wishes;

      not like the candles that hope sets aflame

    and a breath can extinguish ...


He carried it like

   what has no likeness,

    what is curled up inside and

      he swore he could feel it, though

       perhaps he had dreamed it, still

         at times, stopping under some tree

       or other, when the night was warm,

      so close the stars seemed to breathe in  

   the branches, he would lie quiet,  

then it would seem

that whatever it was in there

would pulse softly with light, a code  

   only the heart could break

    (but of course he couldn’t say

      for he was only the messenger)—

    and at sunrise, wearily, he would rise  

      to his feet and trudge on, sometimes  

       running, sometimes stumbling,

         carrying whatever it was that could not

          be put down, would not be cast aside—

         and besides, he would chide himself,  

       weren’t they all as tired as he,

      and hadn’t they helped him, time

    and again, on his way?

 REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Passacaglia in G Minor by G.F. Handel

Walking, Blues

By  Jane Mead   

Rain so dark I

can’t get through—

train going by

in a hurry. The voice

said walk or die, I

walked,—the train

and the voice all

blurry. I walked with

my bones and my heart

of chalk, not even

a splintered notion:

days of thought, nights

of worry,—lonesome

train in a hurry.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Walking Blues, performed by Robert Johnson


By  Gail Mazur  

In the warming house, children lace their skates,  

bending, choked, over their thick jackets.

A Franklin stove keeps the place so cozy

it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave,

clumping across the frozen beach to the river.  

December’s always the same at Ware’s Cove,

the first sheer ice, black, then white

and deep until the city sends trucks of men

with wooden barriers to put up the boys’  

hockey rink. An hour of skating after school,

of trying wobbly figure-8’s, an hour

of distances moved backwards without falling,

then—twilight, the warming house steamy  

with girls pulling on boots, their chafed legs

aching. Outside, the hockey players keep  

playing, slamming the round black puck

until it’s dark, until supper. At night,

a shy girl comes to the cove with her father.

Although there isn’t music, they glide

arm in arm onto the blurred surface together,

braced like dancers. She thinks she’ll never

be so happy, for who else will find her graceful,

find her perfect, skate with her

in circles outside the emptied rink forever?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Suite # 4 for Two Pianos by Anton Arensky


A Girl on the Swing

By  Chungmi Kim  

She sees the mountain

upside down.

With her long hair

sweeping the fallen leaves

she swings

like a pendulum.

From the lagoon at sunset

a hundred sparrows fly away.

Wishing them back

she whistles softly.

And downward

she falls into the sky.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Swing (from "Jeux d'Enfants") by George Bizet

Swimming Lesson

By Alice Wagner

The summer has passed quickly.

Now seasons blur, mixing their heat and cold.

The view out my window is vague.

Through the fog I try to find meaning. 

Determined, the Hudson flows, its path veiled but constant,

Expanding into the Sound, rivers to seas, seas to other seas,

While the past looks over my shoulder.

I close my eyes, riding the currents, and extend beyond time and reason,

breathing in the absent breeze that kissed my face with salt and memory.

And once again I feel the waves beat and roll,

pulling and lulling my breath to submit to their measure.

And over the water, dark patches swirl and drop as each wave races to the shore,

breaking, foaming, and fading into the sand, willing  their stories to be told by other waves. 

Seeing you merge with the water, I lose time with every step.

My steps quick and tender, to escape the sand’s burning heat.

Off balance, my feet sink in deeper with each attempt.

Rough stones and sharp shells, a Maginot line to test my faith. 

Advancing in increments, a slow descent , and the sting and heat are soon forgotten,

against the cold of the water that quickly pulls me under.

I cannot see the bottom.

Playful and elusive, seaweed teases and taunts my legs and toes.

I am afraid to touch below unable to determine what awaits me there.

Truth is redefined , as each wave crashes and turns me,

while the undertow challenges where latitude and longitude meet.

I look for you in the distance,

counting each dip and wave as you move farther away,

your movement strong, flexing, arching,

confidently, skimming doubt and dodging currents,

slicing through the calm, the waters part.

How did you get so far?  I calculate,

watching, while the sun dances on the waves, blurring  possibility.

Sudden and cold, the  water reminds me of its depth and infinity.

Splashing and sinking, I cannot catch my breath.

I tread  water and  lose focus, as the currents erase time and reason.

The waves carry me, forcing me to let go… I float.

I stretch out for miles with no end.

Bays to seas, seas to other seas, expanding,

While the past anchors me, the future calls me forward.

The swimmers called in for the last time,

Their bodies, short, long, and round, emerge reluctantly from the water, wet and slick,

huddling under towels, attempting to capture the last warmth of the sun. 

Where heads bobbed in the water like notes in a piano book,

buoys now sway and rock , the tides slowing time and measure,

and rings of brine circle and cling to them, forming even smaller universes.

The shore, once dotted with umbrellas, like the pattern on a skirt I wore,

now gray and scarred with  patterns of play and remnants left for stray gulls.

In the distance, boats skim the water’s surface, the waves tapping their sides, rhythmically,

transposing the mindless talk of day into the sweeter talk of twilight.

As the last rays of sun pierce the horizon, I strain to see you retreat from the waves, a reluctant alien to land.

I quicken my step to meet your stride, my feet still tender, where the sand burned,

sharply grinding into toes and soles, unaccustomed to the elements.

Gently, I reclaim my balance on the weathered and splintered boardwalk.

Careful but sure, your hand, smooth and dry, slides into mine as if carved to fit,

Tiny grains of sand, chafing where our fingers entwine,

reminding us of existence, matter, and the places where we do not meet.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne (from "Napoli") by Francis Poulenc


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Poetry about Planets and Space: Playlist for October 3, 2014


“Roll on, sad world! not Mercury or Mars”

By  Frederick Goddard Tuckerman 

from Sonnets, Second Series


Roll on, sad world! not Mercury or Mars

Could swifter speed, or slower, round the sun,

Than in this year of variance thou hast done

For me. Yet pain, fear, heart-break, woes, and wars

Have natural limit; from his dread eclipse

The swift sun hastens, and the night debars

The day, but to bring in the day more bright;

The flowers renew their odorous fellowships;

The moon runs round and round; the slow earth dips,

True to her poise, and lifts; the planet-stars

Roll and return from circle to ellipse;

The day is dull and soft, the eave-trough drips;

And yet I know the splendor of the light

Will break anon: look! where the gray is white!

Seeing the Eclipse in Maine 

By  Robert Bly  

It started about noon.  On top of Mount Batte,  

We were all exclaiming.  Someone had a cardboard  

And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun  

Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.  

It was hard to believe.  The high school teacher  

We’d met called it a pinhole camera,  

People in the Renaissance loved to do that.  

And when the moon had passed partly through  

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,  

Dozens of crescents—made the same way—  

Thousands!  Even our straw hats produced  

A few as we moved them over the bare granite.  

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine  

Told a joke.  Suns were everywhere—at our feet.


By  John Frederick Nims 

Mildest of all the powers of earth: no lightnings

For her—maniacal in the clouds. No need for

Signs with their skull and crossbones, chain-link gates:

Danger! Keep Out! High Gravity! she’s friendlier.

Won’t nurse—unlike the magnetic powers—repugnance;

Would reconcile, draw close: her passion’s love.

No terrors lurking in her depths, like those

Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,

Terrors that, lossened, turn the hills vesuvian,

Trace in cremation where the cities were.

No, she’s our quiet mother, sensible.

But therefore down-to-earth, not suffering

Fools who play fast and loose among the mountains,

Who fly in her face, or, drunken, clown on cornices.

She taught our ways of walking. Her affection

Adjusted the morning grass, the sands of summer

Until our soles fit snug in each, walk easy.

Holding her hand, we’re safe. Should that hand fail,

The atmosphere we breathe would turn hysterical,

Hiss with tornadoes, spinning us from earth

Into the cold unbreathable desolations.

Yet there—in fields of space—is where she shines,

Ring-mistress of the circus of the stars,

Their prancing carousels, their ferris wheels

Lit brilliant in celebration. Thanks to her

All’s gala in the galaxy.

                                   Down here she

Walks us just right, not like the jokey moon

Burlesquing our human stride to kangaroo hops;

Not like vast planets, whose unbearable mass

Would crush us in a bear hug to their surface

And into the surface, flattened. No: deals fairly.

Makes happy each with each: the willow bend

Just so, the acrobat land true, the keystone

Nestle in place for bridge and for cathedral.

Let us pick up—or mostly—what we need:

Rake, bucket, stone to build with, logs for warmth,

The fallen fruit, the fallen child . . . ourselves.

Instructs us too in honesty: our jointed

Limbs move awry and crisscross, gawky, thwart;

She’s all directness and makes that a grace,

All downright passion for the core of things,

For rectitude, the very ground of being:

Those eyes are leveled where the heart is set.

See, on the tennis court this August day:

How, beyond human error, she’s the one

Whose will the bright balls cherish and obey

—As if in love. She’s tireless in her courtesies

To even the klutz (knees, elbows all a-tangle),

Allowing his poky serve Euclidean whimsies,

The looniest lob its joy: serene parabolas.

Man in Space

By  Billy Collins  

All you have to do is listen to the way a man

sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people

and notice how intent he is on making his point

even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science

fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own

are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine

when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle

with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,

their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

From Space 

By  Katharine Coles  

You are smaller than I remember

And so is the house, set downhill

Afloat in a sea of scrub oak. From up here

It’s an ordinary box with gravel

Spread over its lid, weighting it, but

Inside it’s full of shadows and sky.

Clouds pull themselves over dry

Grass, which, if  I’m not mistaken, will erupt

Any minute in flame. Only

A spark, a sunbeam focused. From up

Here, enjoying the view, I can finally

Take you in. Will you wave back? I keep

Slingshotting around. There’s gravity

For you, but all I ever wanted was to fly

Despina, Moon of Neptune

By Christine Klocek-Lim

She said she’d rather sing alone

than perform for some random guy,

but then Voyager 2 flew by,

eyes trained on her curved form

like a desperate man (the kind

whose lady walked away forever).

He just didn’t know when to look aside. 

She said she tried to hide, quiet her light

against her father’s blue sky, but the lens

found her four times. She gave up

silence for fame, gave up space

and time, until the sun finally fell

down across the steely horizon.

Her father Neptune didn’t seem to care

and that was what hurt her most.

The galaxy beyond everything she knew

was so much less infinite than she’d hoped.

The camera took what he wanted

and left. Despina endured the scrutiny

of a thousand careless eyes—

In the end, she would only wear white,

the color of purity, and not even the dark

could get her to sing anymore.