Saturday, November 15, 2014

Poetry about Sundays: Playlist for November 14, 2014


when you have forgotten Sunday: the love story

By  Gwendolyn Brooks  

—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday,

And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday—

When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,

Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon

Looking off down the long street

To nowhere,

Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation

And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why?

And if-Monday-never-had-to-come—

When you have forgotten that, I say,

And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,

And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;

And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,

That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner

To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles

Or chicken and rice

And salad and rye bread and tea

And chocolate chip cookies—

I say, when you have forgotten that,

When you have forgotten my little presentiment

That the war would be over before they got to you;

And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed,

And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end

Bright bedclothes,

Then gently folded into each other—

When you have, I say, forgotten all that,

Then you may tell,

Then I may believe

You have forgotten me well.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Come Sunday, by Duke Ellington

Early Sunday Morning

By  Edward Hirsch  

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

who left you stranded in a parking lot

forty years ago, you wake up

early enough to see her disappearing

around the corner of your dream

on someone else’s motorcycle

roaring onto the highway at sunrise.

And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit

café full of early morning risers

where the windows are covered with soot

and the coffee is warm and bitter.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sunday in Brooklyn by Elie Siegmeister

Sunday Calls

By  Chard DeNiord  

The nurse calls to tell me on Sunday evenings

how he’s doing.

                               How he’s holding his own in front

of the window with a thousand channels behind

the one that saves his screen with snow, fish houses,

and eagles.

                        How the days hang above the ice as vast

recycled pages on which he writes in invisible ink.

How the sun arcs across the sky, then breaks like a plate

above the horizon.

                                    How the temperature drops

below zero at dusk, then continues to fall till morning.

In this way she teaches me how to speak to him in his sleep

at his home in Minnesota, which is the same, she says,

as talking to a friend you’ve never met, but grown close to

nonetheless from hearing his voice.

                                                                   I hear the snow

falling as she holds the phone outside the window.

Silence is the sound of snow falling on snow, I think

as I listen to the flakes inside the air before she closes

the window.

                        “I’m thinking of walleye in their sleep,”

I tell my father.

                              “Of catching them as they dream,

then throwing them back in the hole I drilled by hand

with the auger you gave me as a child, whose handle is stained

with blood from my turning it so many times into the ice

of Bad Medicine.”

                                    I wait for her voice to return, then say,

“Just this for now since any more would disappear the lake

inside his head on which he builds a house for us to fish

throughout the winter.”

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: String Quintet in C (Adagio) by Franz Schubert

Life of Sundays

By  Rodney Jones    

Down the street, someone must be praying, and though I don’t

Go there anymore, I want to at times, to hear the diction

And the tone, though the English pronoun for God is obsolete—

What goes on is devotion, which wouldn’t change if I heard:

The polished sermon, the upright’s arpeggios of vacant notes.

What else could unite widows, bankers, children, and ghosts?

And those faces are so good as they tilt their smiles upward

To the rostrum that represents law, and the minister who

Represents God beams like the white palm of the good hand

Of Christ raised behind the baptistry to signal the multitude,

Which I am not among, though I feel the abundance of calm

And know the beatitude so well I do not have to imagine it,

Or the polite old ones who gather after the service to chat,

Or the ritual linen of Sunday tables that are already set.

More than any other days, Sundays stand in unvarying rows

That beg attention: there is that studied verisimilitude

Of sanctuary, so even mud and bitten weeds look dressed up

For some eye in the distant past, some remote kingdom

Where the pastures are crossed by thoroughly symbolic rivers.

That is why the syntax of prayers is so often reversed,

Aimed toward the dead who clearly have not gone ahead

But returned to prior things, a vista of angels and sheep,

A desert where men in robes and sandals gather by a tree.

Hushed stores, all day that sense a bell is about to ring—

I recognized it, waking up, before I weighed the bulk of news

Or saw Saturday night’s cars parked randomly along the curb,

And though I had no prayer, I wanted to offer something

Or ask for something, perhaps out of habit, but as the past

Must always be honored unconsciously, formally, and persists

On this first and singular day, though I think of it as last.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: String Quartet No. 1 (Adagio) by Charles Ives


Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther

By  A. E. Stallings 

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,  

The booze and the neon and Saturday night,  

The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?  

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?  

Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons  

And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?  

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes,  

The booze and the neon and Saturday night?

Those Winter Sundays

By  Robert Hayden  

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When  the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had  driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Poems about Dawn, Morning, Afternoon, Dusk & Evening: Playlist for November 7, 2014



By Ella Higginson  

The soft-toned clock upon the stair chimed three—

   Too sweet for sleep, too early yet to rise.

   In restful peace I lay with half-closed eyes,

Watching the tender hours go dreamily;

The tide was flowing in; I heard the sea

   Shivering along the sands; while yet the skies

   Were dim, uncertain, as the light that lies

Beneath the fretwork of some wild-rose tree

Within the thicket gray. The chanticleer

   Sent drowsy calls across the slumbrous air;

   In solemn silence sweet it was to hear

My own heart beat . . . Then broad and deep and fair—

   Trembling in its new birth from heaven’s womb—

   One crimson shaft of dawn sank thro’ my room.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Dawn on the Moskva River by Modest Mussorgsky



By Billy Collins    

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,

the swale of the afternoon,

the sudden dip into evening,

then night with his notorious perfumes,

his many-pointed stars?

This is the best—

throwing off the light covers,

feet on the cold floor,

and buzzing around the house on espresso—

maybe a splash of water on the face,

a palmful of vitamins—

but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,

dictionary and atlas open on the rug,

the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,

a cello on the radio,

and, if necessary, the windows—

trees fifty, a hundred years old

out there,

heavy clouds on the way

and the lawn steaming like a horse

in the early morning. 

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Morning Song by Arnold Bax

A Musical Instrument

By  Elizabeth Barrett Browning  


WHAT was he doing, the great god Pan,

    Down in the reeds by the river ?

Spreading ruin and scattering ban,

Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,

And breaking the golden lilies afloat

    With the dragon-fly on the river.


He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,

    From the deep cool bed of the river :

The limpid water turbidly ran,

And the broken lilies a-dying lay,

And the dragon-fly had fled away,

    Ere he brought it out of the river.


High on the shore sate the great god Pan,

    While turbidly flowed the river ;

And hacked and hewed as a great god can,

With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,

Till there was not a sign of a leaf indeed

    To prove it fresh from the river.


He cut it short, did the great god Pan,

    (How tall it stood in the river !)

Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,

Steadily from the outside ring,

And notched the poor dry empty thing

    In holes, as he sate by the river.


This is the way,' laughed the great god Pan,

    Laughed while he sate by the river,)

The only way, since gods began

To make sweet music, they could succeed.'

Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,

    He blew in power by the river.


Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan !

    Piercing sweet by the river !

Blinding sweet, O great god Pan !

The sun on the hill forgot to die,

And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly

    Came back to dream on the river.


Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,

    To laugh as he sits by the river,

Making a poet out of a man :

The true gods sigh for the cost and pain, —

For the reed which grows nevermore again

    As a reed with the reeds in the river.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude to Afternoon of a Fawn by Claude Debussy

Bryant Park at Dusk

By  Geoffrey Brock  

Floodlights have flared on behind and above

              Where I sit in my public chair.

The lawn that had gradually darkened has brightened.

              The library windows stare.

I’m alone in a crowd—e pluribus plures.

              Far from a family I miss.

I’d almost say I’m lonely, but lonely

              Is worse, I recall, than this.

Loneliness is a genuine poverty.

              I’m like a man who is flush

But forgot his wallet on the nightstand

              When he left for work in a rush,

And now must go without food and coffee

              For a few hours more than he’d wish.

That’s all. He still has a wallet. It’s bulging.

              It floats through his brain like a fish...

Money for love: a terrible simile,

              But maybe it’s fitting here,

A couple of blocks from Madison Avenue

              Where commodities are dear,

Where all around me, rich skyscrapers

              Woo the impoverished sky,

Having sent on their way the spent commuters

              Who stream, uncertain, by—

And as for this whole splurge of a city,

              Isn’t money at its heart?

But I’m blathering now. Forgetting my subject.

              What I meant to say at the start

Is that I noticed a woman reading

              In a chair not far from mine.

Silver-haired, calm, she stirred a hunger

              Hard for me to define,

Perhaps because she doesn’t seem lonely.

              And what I loved was this:

The way, when dusk had darkened her pages,

              As if expecting a kiss,

She closed her eyes and threw her head back,

              Book open on her lap.

Perhaps she was thinking about her story,

              Or the fall air, or a nap.

I thought she’d leave me then for pastimes

              More suited to the dark.

But she is on intimate terms, it seems,

              With the rhythms of Bryant Park,

For that’s when the floodlights came on, slowly,

              Somewhere far above my need,

And the grass grew green again, and the woman

              Reopened her eyes to read.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: At Dusk by Arthur Foote


By  Lisel Mueller  

Johannes Brahms and                                 
        Clara Schumann 

The modern biographers worry

“how far it went,” their tender friendship.

They wonder just what it means

when he writes he thinks of her constantly,

his guardian angel, beloved friend.

The modern biographers ask

the rude, irrelevant question

of our age, as if the event

of two bodies meshing together

establishes the degree of love,

forgetting how softly Eros walked

in the nineteenth-century, how a hand

held overlong or a gaze anchored

in someone’s eyes could unseat a heart,

and nuances of address not known

in our egalitarian language

could make the redolent air

tremble and shimmer with the heat

of possibility. Each time I hear

the Intermezzi, sad

and lavish in their tenderness,

I imagine the two of them

sitting in a garden

among late-blooming roses

and dark cascades of leaves,

letting the landscape speak for them,

leaving us nothing to overhear.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Concerto No. 1 (2nd movement) by Johannes Brahms

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Poems for Halloween: Playlist for October 31, 2014

By  Anne Sexton  

I have gone out, a possessed witch,  

haunting the black air, braver at night;  

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch  

over the plain houses, light by light:  

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.  

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.  

I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,  

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,  

closets, silks, innumerable goods;

fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:  

whining, rearranging the disaligned.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,  

learning the last bright routes, survivor  

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.  

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.  

I have been her kind.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Atmospheres, by Gyorgy Ligeti


The Haunted Oak

By  Paul Laurence Dunbar  

Pray why are you so bare, so bare,

   Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;

And why, when I go through the shade you throw,

   Runs a shudder over me?

My leaves were green as the best, I trow,

   And sap ran free in my veins,

But I say in the moonlight dim and weird

   A guiltless victim's pains.

They'd charged him with the old, old crime,

   And set him fast in jail:

Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,

   And why does the night wind wail?

He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,

   And he raised his hand to the sky;

But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,

   And the steady tread drew nigh.

Who is it rides by night, by night,

   Over the moonlit road?

And what is the spur that keeps the pace,

   What is the galling goad?

And now they beat at the prison door,

   "Ho, keeper, do not stay!

We are friends of him whom you hold within,

   And we fain would take him away

"From those who ride fast on our heels

   With mind to do him wrong;

They have no care for his innocence,

   And the rope they bear is long."

They have fooled the jailer with lying words,

   They have fooled the man with lies;

The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,

   And the great door open flies.

Now they have taken him from the jail,

   And hard and fast they ride,

And the leader laughs low down in his throat,

   As they halt my trunk beside.

Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,

   And the doctor one of white,

And the minister, with his oldest son,

   Was curiously bedight.

Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?

   'Tis but a little space,

And the time will come when these shall dread

   The mem'ry of your face.

I feel the rope against my bark,

   And the weight of him in my grain,

I feel in the throe of his final woe

   The touch of my own last pain.

And never more shall leaves come forth

   On the bough that bears the ban;

I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,

   From the curse of a guiltless man.

And ever the judge rides by, rides by,

   And goes to hunt the deer,

And ever another rides his soul

   In the guise of a mortal fear.

And ever the man he rides me hard,

   And never a night stays he;

For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,

   On the trunk of a haunted tree.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Overture to"The Vampire" by Heinrich Marschner


By  Annie Finch  

(The Celtic Halloween)

In the season leaves should love,

since it gives them leave to move

through the wind, towards the ground

they were watching while they hung,

legend says there is a seam

stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil

earth from the sky in one last pale

wave, as autumn dies to bring

winter back, and then the spring,

we who die ourselves can peel

back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.

Tonight at last I feel it shake.

I feel the nights stretching away

thousands long behind the days

till they reach the darkness where

all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch

move with me, and when I brush

my own mind across another,

I am with my mother's mother.

Sure as footsteps in my waiting

self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,

intimate, a waiting bounty.

"Carry me." She leaves this trail

through a shudder of the veil,

and leaves, like amber where she stays,

a gift for her perpetual gaze.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Lament, performed by Lauren MacColl


Field of Skulls

By  Mary Karr  

Stare hard enough at the fabric of night,  

and if you're predisposed to dark—let’s say  

the window you’ve picked is a black

postage stamp you spend hours at,

sleepless, drinking gin after the I Love  

Lucy reruns have gone off—stare

like your eyes have force, and behind

any night’s taut scrim will come the forms  

you expect pressing from the other side.  

For you: a field of skulls, angled jaws

and eye-sockets, a zillion scooped-out crania.  

They’re plain once you think to look.

You know such fields exist, for criminals

roam your very block, and even history lists  

monsters like Adolf and Uncle Joe

who stalk the earth’s orb, plus minor baby-eaters  

unidentified, probably in your very midst. Perhaps  

that disgruntled mail clerk from your job

has already scratched your name on a bullet—that’s him  

rustling in the azaleas. You caress the thought,

for it proves there’s no better spot for you

than here, your square-yard of chintz sofa, hearing  

the bad news piped steady from your head. The night  

is black. You stare and furious stare,

confident there are no gods out there. In this way,  

you’re blind to your own eye’s intricate machine  

and to the light it sees by, to the luck of birth and all  

your remembered loves. If the skulls are there—

let’s say they do press toward you

against night’s scrim—could they not stare

with slack jawed envy at the fine flesh

that covers your scalp, the numbered hairs,  

at the force your hands hold?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Adagio from Music for Percussion, Strings & Celesta by Bela Bartok



Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”

By  William Shakespeare  

(from Macbeth)

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon's blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Symphonie Fantastique, movement 5 by Hector Berlioz