Saturday, October 17, 2015

Poetry about First Love: Playlist for October 16, 2015


Innocents We
By paul verlaine

Their long skirts and high heels battled away:
Depending on the ground’s and breezes’ whim,
At times some stocking shone, low on the limb—
Too soon concealed!—tickling our naïveté.

At times, as well, an envious bug would bite
Our lovelies’ necks beneath the boughs, and we
Would glimpse a flash—white flash, ah! ecstasy!—
And glut our mad young eyes on sheer delight.

Evening would fall, the autumn day would draw
To its uncertain close: our belles would cling
Dreamingly to us, cooing, whispering
Lies that still set our souls trembling with awe.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Danse sacree et danse profane by Claude Debussy

Coy Mistress
BY annie finch

Sir, I am not a bird of prey:
a Lady does not seize the day.
I trust that brief Time will unfold
our youth, before he makes us old.
How could we two write lines of rhyme
were we not fond of numbered Time
and grateful to the vast and sweet
trials his days will make us meet:
The Grave's not just the body's curse;
no skeleton can pen a verse!
So while this numbered World we see,
let's sweeten Time with poetry,
and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love
and give us time our love to prove.
You've praised my eyes, forehead, breast:
you've all our lives to praise the rest.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Serenade for Strings, 2nd movement by Edward Elgar

Days of '74
BY mark jaRman
What was the future then but affirmation,   
The first yes between us
Followed by the first lingering dawn?
Waking below a window shaded by redwoods   
(Waking? We hadn’t slept—),
We found time saved, like sunlight in a tree.

Still, the house was cold, and there were shadows.   
The couple in the next room
Rapped the wall to quiet us, like them,   
Condescending from a bitter knowledge
That, young as we all were,
Love didn’t last, but receded into silence.

Wedging our pillows back of the headboard
That clapped in time with us,
We let them think we agreed. Then, holding on,
We closed each other’s mouths and felt that slowness   
That the best days begin with   
Turn into the speed with which they fly.

Flight was that year’s theme, all around us—
Flight of hunter and hunted,
The President turning inward on one wing,   
And, on the patio, the emigration
Of termites, a glittering fleet,
Leaving that shadowed house a little lighter.

Within it all, above it, or beyond,
We thought we were the fixed point,
And held still as the quail lit down beside us   
And waited for her plump mate to appear,   
His crest a quivering hook.
The valley’s reach of sunshine reeled them in.

There was wilderness around us, don’t forget.   
Behind the nets of fragrance
Thrown across our path by the acacia   
Lurked the green man or the kidnapper.   
And there was the Pacific
With its own passions taking place as rain.

The sorrow of the couple in the next room   
Was a deep muteness nightly.
That loneliness could come of loving was   
Like news of time cored out of the redwood.   
The house that we made shake,
Or thought we did, was taking wing already.

After we left, still it took us years
Before we stopped comparing
Every morning together to that first one   
And every place we lived to that first place   
And everything we said
To that first word repeated all night long.


Intermezzo by Francis Poulenc

Fast Gas
BY dorianne laux

Before the days of self service,
when you never had to pump your own gas,
I was the one who did it for you, the girl
who stepped out at the sound of a bell
with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back
in a straight, unlovely ponytail.
This was before automatic shut-offs
and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,
I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas
backed up, came arcing out of the hole
in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,
belly and legs. And I had to hurry
back to the booth, the small employee bathroom
with the broken lock, to change my uniform,
peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin
and wash myself in the sink.
Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt
pure and amazed — the way the amber gas
glazed my flesh, the searing,
subterranean pain of it, how my skin
shimmered and ached, glowed
like rainbowed oil on the pavement.
I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,
for the first time, in love, that man waiting
patiently in my future like a red leaf
on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty
that asks to be noticed. How was I to know
it would begin this way: every cell of my body
burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me
a nimbus of light that would carry me
through the days, how when he found me,
weeks later, he would find me like that,
an ordinary woman who could rise
in flame, all he would have to do
is come close and touch me.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Slow Hot Wind by Henry Mancini

BY tom sleigh
Lathe of the ocean. Perpetual
Motion machine of the waves. Everything still
Being turned and shaped to a shape nobody
Foresees: Ten years ago, was it, when we

Walked that shore, too earnest and sheepish
To hold hands? The wind cutting through our clothes
Cleansed and burned, the chill off the Atlantic
An ache we courted in our dumbstruck talk:

Callow, expectant, what wouldn’t love give?
Cavalcanti’s ray from Mars, Dante’s wheel that moves
The planets and the stars, how nervous
We were, awkward and shivering: “Like this,

Do you like it like this?” Up all night,
Then waking to the smell of flannel and sweat,
We lay grateful, winded, goosefleshed in the chill,
Our own atmosphere rich and breathable:

We drank round the clock, embracing extremes,
Too hurried and heartsore to think of time…
Out fishing after midnight, we watched schools of squid
Slide and shimmer, tentacles tight-wrapped

Around our gig’s hooks: Yanked from the water,
They spouted jets of ink, then pulsed and quivered
And faded to dead-white, their eyes, resigned and sober,
Opening wider and wider…Ten years more,

And will either of us remember
That ink sticky on our hands, the moon-glare
Rippling as we knelt underneath the pier
And scrubbed and scrubbed our hands in the dark water?

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Concerto for 2 Violins, 2nd. movement, by J.S. Bach

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tongue-In-Cheek: October 9, 2015


Terra Nullius
By erika meitner

The poem in which we drive an hour to the beach and Uncle Dave doesn't get out
         of his lawn chair once.
The poem in which we left the yellow plastic shovel behind and everyone is bereft.
The poem in which I can't stop talking about how you walked deep into Lake Erie
         and the water was still only up to your knees when you turned into a speck
         past the rock jetty.
The poem in which everyone listens to celebrity gossip in the car on the way back.
The poem in which I pontificate on how ugly the fiancée of that Jonas brother is,
         and how they're too young to get married, and how my grandmother's old
         neighbor would have said, "Ugly? She can't help that she's ugly. It's that she's
         so stupid," and I would have yelled at her for assuming that all former hair-
         dressers are dim.
The poem in which I turn into my grandmother's old neighbor.
The poem in which I remember very clearly how they both stored tissues in their
The poem in which I think about how this would horrify your mother—the
          pendulous breasts, the moist tissues, the dipping into the cleavage to retrieve
The poem in which your mother tries not to wince when I order whatever I want
          from the menu despite her coupon for two medium 1-topping pizzas.
The poem in which I try to find a deeper meaning for why I notice the woman
          ahead of us in line at Johnny's Liquor Store who buys a pack of menthols and        
          asks the guy behind the counter if he knows her good-for-nothing brother. She
          has hair that looks like cats got at a skein of yarn, and a tattoo above her ankle
          that's dark and unspecified. It's far enough above her ankle that it's nearly mid-
          calf—like her ankle and calf are two different countries and the tattoo got lost
          in the borderlands on the way to its actual destination.
The poem in which I am territory that is under dispute and no one will occupy it
          because of fear and uncertainty.
The poem in which I reach the conclusion that this feeling is inspired by your
          mother and the way she hums out-of-season carols while doing kitchen tasks,
          though it's not really about the humming but rather the time she asked me to
          light the Hanukkah candles in the attic because it would be better if they were
          out of the way for the Christmas party.
The poem in which you and I are in line waiting to buy a mixed six-pack of Great
          Lakes and I am staring at a stranger's tattoo and thinking about the fact that I
          am not Anne Frank while the baby is in the car with your mother.
The poem in which I go into Walmart and buy the baby an olive-green cap that
          looks suspiciously like Fidel Castro's.
The poem in which I could eradicate the fact that I ever went into Walmart and
          bought anything so the baby can one day start a revolution.
The poem in which we see a couple on the highway median in a stalled-out Buick
          and don't stop to help.
The poem in which the highway median looks like the spit of land between two
          enemy trenches and I feel a deep longing for my childhood.
The poem in which I remember, for no apparent reason, the tornado instructions
          taped to the sides of all the filing cabinets in one office I worked in that was on
          the top floor of a mostly abandoned mall in Overland Park, Kansas. All that
          was left: decorative fountains, floor tiles, mirrored ceilings, Nearly Famous
          Pizza, the carcass of Sears.
The poem in which we leave Northeastern Ohio, The poem in which we return to
          Northeastern Ohio.
The poem in which it is night and we are lost in Northeastern Ohio and we keep
          passing Amish buggies adorned with reflective tape.
The poem in which the moon is a vehicle for content, and is far less than a perfect
          reflector of anything.
The poem in which we are all in some kind of limbo.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Etude No. 6 by Philip Glass

30 One-Liners
BY joe brainard
          More time is spent at the window.

          You go along from day to day with summer all around you.

          Stores tell all about people who live in the area.

          Others have already written what I would like to write.

          Today the sky is so blue it burns.

                                    IN THE COUNTRY
          In the country one can almost hear the silence.

                                   THE FOUR SEASONS
           The four seasons of the year permit us to enjoy things.

           Smear each side of a pork chop with mustard and dredge in

                                          BOOK WORM
          Have always had nose stuck in book from little on.

                                       THAT FEELING
           What defines that feeling one has when gazing at a rock?

                                         COSTA RICA
          It was in Costa Rica I saw my first coffee plantation.

           Happiness is nothing more than a state of mind.

          Money will buy a fine dog.

                                  OUR GOVERNMENT
           A new program is being introduced by our government.

           On the whole he is a beautiful human being.

          A lake attracts a man and wife and members of a family.

                                               THE SKY
           We see so many different things when we look at the sky.

                                   A SEXY THOUGHT
          Male early in the day.

          One can only go so far without potatoes in the kitchen.

          A mother is something we have all had.

                                       MODERN TIMES
           Every four minutes a car comes off the assembly line they say.

                                          THE OCEAN
           Foamy waves wash to shore "treasures" as a sacrifice to damp

           High density housing is going on all around us.

                                            REAL LIFE
          I could have screamed the day John proposed winterizing
the cottage and living there permanently.

          I am a very cold person here.

                      THE YEAR OF THE WHITE MAN
          The year of the white man was a year of many beads.

          Loyalty, I feel, is a very big word.

                      SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
           Perhaps in our mad scramble to keep our heads above water
we miss the point.

                                     HUMAN NATURE
          Why must we be so intent on destroying everything we

          Winifred was a little relieved when they were gone.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Arioso, by J.S. Bach

In the Grünewald Café
BYalfred corn
Where do slackers go to get their jollies?
Where do they spend hours every day?
Where commit their most moronic follies?
In the Grünewald Café.

The dull-eyed types who sit alone? They're boozers
Who dose their coffee with Grand Marnier.
No one ever tells them they are losers
In the Grünewald Café.

You hadn't seen the mobster's girlfriend. Tasty,
But are you sure her goon has gone away?
It's not so wise to come on overhasty
In the Grünewald Café.

You sidle up and say, "Can I get you a drink?"
She's shuffling cards and seems to want to play.
A smile means "Try your luck, guy," don't you think,
In the Grünewald Café?

Card game done, why not get down to cases?
Up close her blue-green eyes seem less blasé.
All around you fools are pulling faces—
In the Grünewald Café?

Yet when your hands touch, someone taps your shoulder.
It's the waiter: "Sorry. Care to pay?"
A silence falls. Things suddenly feel colder
In the Grünewald Café.

The red-faced gangster, packing heat, approaches.
A rod's blunt business end. You start to pray.
What made you hang out here with all these roaches
In the Grünewald Café?

How brief it is, that fiery burst of thunder!
Brief as life, brief as a winter day.
To croak because you made a stupid blunder
In the Grünewald Café!

And now this floating view down from the ceiling:
Blood soaks the spot where your dead body lay.
What song, what words express all that you're feeling?
In the Grünewald Café.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cafe Music by Paul Schoenfeld

Song of Welcome
BY joseph brodsky
Here’s your mom, here’s your dad.
Welcome to being their flesh and blood.
Why do you look so sad?

Here’s your food, here’s your drink.
Also some thoughts, if you care to think.
Welcome to everything.

Here’s your practically clean slate.
Welcome to it, though it’s kind of late.
Welcome at any rate.


Here’s your paycheck, here’s your rent.
Money is nature’s fifth element.
Welcome to every cent.

Here’s your swarm and your huge beehive.
Welcome to the place with its roughly five
billion like you alive.

Welcome to the phone book that stars your name.
Digits are democracy’s secret aim.
Welcome to your claim to fame.


Here’s your marriage, and here’s divorce.
Now that’s the order you can’t reverse.
Welcome to it; up yours,

Here’s your blade, here’s your wrist.
Welcome to playing your own terrorist;
call it your Middle East.

Here’s your mirror, your dental gleam.
Here’s an octopus in your dream.
Why do you try to scream?


Here’s your corncob, your TV set.
Your candidate suffering an upset.
Welcome to what he said.

Here’s your porch, see the cars pass by.
Here’s your shitting dog’s guilty eye.
Welcome to its alibi.

Here are your cicadas, then a chickadee,
the bulb’s dry tear in your lemon tea.
Welcome to infinity.


Here are your pills on the plastic tray,
your disappointing, crisp X-ray.
You are welcome to pray.

Here’s your cemetery, a well-kept glen.
Welcome to a voice that says “Amen.”
The end of the rope, old man.

Here’s your will, and here’s a few
takers. Here’s an empty pew.
Here’s life after you.


And here are your stars which appear still keen
on shining as though you had never been.
They might have a point, old bean.

Here’s your afterlife, with no trace
of you, especially of your face.
Welcome, and call it space.
Welcome to where one cannot breathe.
This way, space resembles what’s underneath,
and Saturn holds the wreath.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Spring, from The Four Seasons, by Antonio Vivaldi

the library of t-shirts
BY joanne burns

in order to upgrade the communitys appreciation of poetry during the international year of cultural enrichment stage 2, members of the state’s library progress committee decided to establish a small library of t-shirts on which would be printed quality verse in vivid, bold colours and lettering. the poems would be selected on the basis of one of three qualities: is the poem poignant, perspicacious, or pithy.

given the respectably researched fact that the wearing of words on t-shirts expresses a deep psychic desire for an intimate union of word and flesh, (and bear in mind the way
logo nudges towards logos) it is not surprising that this library of t-shirts has been a great success. no one seems to mind borrowing pre-worn clothing. of course the librarys washing and ironing staff maintain the t-shirts in excellent condition. even after ten borrowings the shirts look brand new. and considering the phenomenal success of andrew lloyd webber’s “cats” it is no shock revelation that t.s. eliothollow men has proved to be the librarys most popular t-shirt so far. in fact there are now eight copies of this shirt on loan, most in metallic or fluoro colours.

a couple of the more entrepreneurial of the library’s progress committee members are leading the push for diversification of the library’s poetry program, into neck to knee anti-uv swimwear, with maybe slessor, shelly and stevie smith prints for starters; and into underpants, with their multiple attractions.

while the committee feels both these garments could increase poetry’s appeal, they are worried about the practicability of adding these garments to the t-shirt poetry collection. would many members want to borrow preworn underpants, however compelling the poems’ cadences and metaphors; while the wear and tear on the swimming costume fabric via chlorine and salt water would perhaps be too great. however they are interested in marketing and selling these articles from a stall in the library’s foyer. the only committee member unenthusiastic regarding this proposal is an optometrist who has raised the issue of eye damage if the typeface of the lines of verse on the underpants were too small. a solution in the form of large print haikus is being considered.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, by W.A. Mozart/P. Schickele