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A POEM A DAY

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					                                                         “A POEM A DAY”

                           ADVANCED PLACEMENT LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION

                                   MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL

                                                  STEVE OSHER, INSTRUCTOR


DAILY EXTRA CREDIT WILL BE AWARDED FOR CORRECT READINGS, AND SOME (BRIEF) INSIGHT
INTO THE MEANING, INTENT, OR TONE OF THE POEMS. PLEASE LET YOUR INSTRUCTOR KNOW,
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CLASS, THAT YOU HAVE SELECTED A PARTICULAR POEM TO
PRESENT. [2-3 minutes only, 2 POINTS EACH]
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) (1)
Resume                                     1926

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) (3)
Poem                                              1934

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down
into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot


Ted Kooser           (b. 1939)*      (4)
Carrie
                                     1979
"There's never an end to dust
and dusting," my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventy years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storm. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There is never an end to it.
                                                                        2
Lucille Clifton             (b. 1936)   (5)
Homage To My Hips                              1991

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
pretty places, these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Carole Satyamuri            (b. 1939)   (6)
I Shall Paint My Nails Red                      1990
Because a bit of colour is a public service.
Because I am proud of my hands.Because it will remind me I'm a woman.

Because I will look like a survivor.
Because I can admire them in traffic jams.
Because my daughter will say ugh.
Because my lover will be surprised.
Because it is quicker than dyeing my hair.

Because it is a ten-minute moratorium.

Because it is reversible.

Leigh Hunt           (1784-1859)        (7)
Rondeau                                        1838

Jenny kissed me when we met,
  Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
  sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
  Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
  Jenny kissed me.
                                                             3
Langston Hughes        (1902-1967) (8)
Prayer                                         1955

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see
That without dust the rainbow would not be.



Stevie Smith.        (1902-1971 )* (9)
This Englishwoman                                  1937

This Englishwoman is so refined
She has no bosom and no behind.

Brad Leithauser            (b. 1953) (10)
A Venus Flytrap                                1981

The humming fly is turned to carrion.
This vegetable's no vegetarian.

Hilaire Belloc          (1870-1953) (11)
The Hippopotamus                        1896
I shoot the Hippopotamus
   with bullets made of platinum,
Because if I use leaden ones
   his hide is sure to flatten 'em.

John Keats     (1795-1821)*           (12)
This Living Hand, Now Warm               (1819?)
And Capable

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping. Would if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again.
.And thou be conscience-calmed--see here it is--
I hold it towards you.

William Stafford                ( 1914-1993) (13)
At The Un-national Monument Along The Canadian Border 1977
This is a field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open..
No people killed-- or were killed-- on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.
                                                           4
Charles Causley      (b. 1917) (14)
I Saw A Jolly Hunter                      1970

I saw a jolly hunter
   With a jolly gun
Walking in the country
    In the jolly sun.

In the jolly meadow
    Sat a Jolly hare.
Saw the Jolly hunter.
    Took Jolly care.
Hunter jolly eager--
   sight of jolly prey.
Forgot gun pointing
  Wrong jolly way.

Jolly hunter jolly head
  Over heels gone.
JoIly old safety catch
  Not jolly on.
Bang went the jolly gun.
  Hunter jolly dead.
Jolly hare got clean away.
  Jolly good, I said.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)             (15)
Funeral Blues                                 1940

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Tie crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Robert Herrick (1591-1674) (17)
To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time       1648

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
  Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
  Tomorrow will be dying.
                                                          5
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
  The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
  And Nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
  When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
  Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
  And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
  You may for ever tarry.

E.E. Cummings (1894-1962) (18)
Somewhere I Have Never Travelled,               1931
Gladly Beyond

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, myseriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of ths flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rending death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands



Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) (19)
One Art                                         1976

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 disaster.
                                                           6
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I lose) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Hugh Kinsmill Lunn (1889-1949) (21)
What, Still Alive At                (About 1920)
Twenty-Two?

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won't be glad
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon's not the only thing
That's cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o'er the botting-pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

Langston Hughes                     (22)
Theme for English B                          (1951)

The instructor said,

  Go home and write
  a page tonight,
  And let that page come out of you---
  Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you and me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two-- you, me, talk on this page.
                                                       7
(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for Christmas present,
or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I wrote?
Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--
although you're older-- and white--
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) (23)
The New Colossus                            1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles, From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips, "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Anonymous                          (24)
We Four Lads From                  (about 1963)
Liverpool Are

We four lads from Liverpool are---
Paul in a taxi, John in a car,
George on a scooter, tootin' his hooter,
Following Ringo Starr.
                                                                                8
Adrienne Rich         (b. 1929)     (25)
Women                                             1968

My three sisters are sitting
on rocks of black obsidian.
For the first time, in this light, I can see who they are.

My first sister is sewing her costume for the procession.
She is going as the Transparent Lady
and all her nerves will be visible

My second sister is also sewing,
at the seam over her heart which has never healed entirely,
At last, she shopes, this tightness in her chest will ease

My third sister is gazing
at a dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea.
Her stockings are torn but she is beautiful.

Octavio Paz (1914-1998) (27)
Con Los Ojos Cerrados      With Our Eyes Shut 1968

Con los ojos cerrados                      With your eyes shut
Te iluminas por dentro                     You light up from within
Eres la piedra ciega                       You are blind stone

Noche a noche te labro                     Night by night I carve you
Con los ojos cerrados                      With my eyes shut
Eres la piedra franca                      You are clear stone

Nos volvemos inmensos                      We become immense
Solo por conocernos                        Just knowing eachother
Con los ojos cerrados                      With our eyes shut
                                              ---Translated by John Felstiner

Julia Alvarez (b. 1950) (28)
The Women On My Mother's Side              1984
Were Known (From "33")

The women on my mother's side were known
for beauty and were given lovely names
passed down for generations.
I knew them as my pretty aunts: Laura, who could turn
any head once, and Ada, whose husband
was so devoted he would lay his hand-
kerchief on seats for her and when she rose
thank her; there was Rosa, who got divorced
twice, her dark eyes and thick hair were to blame;
and my mother Julia, who was a catch
and looks it in her wedding photographs
My sister got her looks, I got her name,
and it suits me that between resemblance
and words, I got the right inheiritance.
                                                 9
Claude McKay (1890-1948) (29)
America                                1922

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead.
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the tough of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail      (30)

You've failed
many times,
although you may not
remember.
You fell down
the first time
you tried to walk.
You almost drowned
the first time
you tried to
swim, didn't you?
Did you hit the
ball the first time
you swung a bat?
Heavy hitters,
the ones who hit the
most home runs,
also strike
out a lot.
R.H. Macy
failed seven
times before his
store in New York
caught on.
English novelist
John Creasy got
753 rejection slips
before he published
564 books.
Babe Ruth struck out
1,330 times,
but he also hit
714 home runs.
Don't worry about failure.
Worry about the
chances you miss
when you don't
even try.
                                                           10
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) (31)
This Is Just To Say                                 1934

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Tess Gallagher (b. 1943)         (32)
Stop Writing The Poem                       1992

To fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I'm still a woman.
I'll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I'll get back
to the poem. I'll get back to being
a woman. But for now
here's a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it's done.

Sharon Olds (b. 1942)             (33)
Rites of Passage                             1983

As the guests arrive at my son's party
they gather in the living room--
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fight
breaking out ad calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six I'm seven. So!
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other's pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin a the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
                                            11
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree. They clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son's life.


Maya Angelou       (b. 1928) (35)

Seven Women's Blessed Assurance


1
One thing about me,
I'm little and low,
find me a man
wherever I go.

2
They call me string bean
'cause I'm so tall.
Men see me,
they ready to fall.

3
I'm young as morning
and fresh as dew.
Everybody loves me
and so do you.

4
I'm fat as butter
and sweet as cake.
Men start to tremble
each time I shake.

5
I'm little and lean,
sweet to the bone.
They like to pick me up
and carry me home.

6
When I passed forty
I dropped pretense,
'cause men like women
who got some sense.

7
Fifty-five is perfect,
So is fifty-nine,
'cause every man needs
to rest sometime.
                                                                12
Ishigaki Rin (b. 1920)         (36)
The Pan, the Pot, the Fire I Have Before Me

For a long time
these things have a1ways been placed
before us women:

the pan of a reasonable size
suited to the user's strength,
the pot in which it's convenient for rice
to begin to swell and shine, grain by grain,
the glow of the fire inherited from time immemorial--
before these there have always been
mothers, grandmothers, and their mothers

What measures of love and sincerity
these persons must have poured
into these utensils
now red carrots,
now black seaweed,
now crushed fish

in the kitchen, always accurately
for morning, noon, and evening, preparations have been made
and before the preparations, in a row, there have always been
some pairs of warm knees and hands.

Ah without those persons waiting
how could women have gone on
cooking so happily?
their unflagging care,
so daily a service they became unconscious of it.

Cooking was mysteriously assigned
to women, as a role,
but I don't think that was unfortunate:
because of that, their knowledge and positions in society
may have lagged behind the times
but it isn't too late:
the things we have before us,
the pan and the pot, and the burning fire,

before these familiar things,
let us study government, economy, literature

     as sincerely
     as we cook potatoes and meat.

     not for vanity and promotion
     but so everyone
     may serve all
     so everyone may work for love.
      --- Translated by Hiroaki Sato
                                                   13
Donald Justice        (b. 1925) (37)
Men at forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father's tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.


Audre Lorde (1934-1992)           (38)
Hanging Fire

I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live without
still sucks his thumb
in secret
how come my knees are
always so ashy
what if I die
before morning
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance
in time for the next party
my room is too small for me
suppose I die before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
but finally
tell the truth about me
There is nothing I want to do
and too much
that has been done
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think
about my side of it
I should have been on Math Team
my marks were better than his
                                                            14
why do I have to be
the one
wearing braces
I have nothing to wear tomorrow
will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)     (39)
Contraband

The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That's why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
lt's toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable--but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn't
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in--as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.

Barbara Crooker      (b. 1945) (40)
Patty's Charcoal Drive-In

First job. In tight black shorts
and a white bowling shirt, red lipstick
and bouncing pony tail. I present
each overflowing tray as if it were a banquet
I'm sixteen and college-bound
this job's temporary as the summer sun,
but right now, it's the boundaries of my life.
After the first few nights of mixed orders
and missing cars, the work goes easily.
I take out the silver trays and hook them to the windows,
inhale the mingled smells of seared meat patties,
salty ketchup, rich sweet malteds.
The lure of grease drifts through the thick night air.
And it's always summer at Patty's Charcoal Drive-In--
carloads of blonde-and-tan girls
pull up next to red convertibles,
boys in black tee shirts and slick hair.
Everyone knows what they want.
And I want on them, hoping for tips,
                                                              15
loose pieces of silver
flung carelessly as the stars.
Doo-wop music streams from the jukebox
and each night repeats itself,
faithful as a steady date.
Towards 10 P.M., traffic dwindles.
We police the lot, pick up wrappers.
The dark pours down, sticky as Coke,
but the light from the kitchen
gleams like a beacon.
A breeze comes up, chasing papers
in the far corners of the darkened lot,
as if suddenly a cold wind had started to blow
straight at me from the future--
I read that in a Doris Lessing book--
but right now, purse fat with tips,
the moon sitting like a cheeseburger on a flat black grill,
this is enough.
Your order please.

Archibald MacLeish        (41)
Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers The Sea Shell

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire, or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell.

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

WHo dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
SHe will not touch it-knows the wold she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell...
                                   What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?
                                                              16
C.D. Lewis               (42)
Walking Away

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day--
A sunny day with the leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled-- since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys, I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Whof inds no path where the path should be

The hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature's give-and-take- the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show--
How selfhood beginds with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

THE VOICE YOU HEAR WHEN YOU READ SILENTLY (43)
Thomas Lux

is not silent, it is a speaking-
out-loud voice in your head: it is spoken,
a voice is saying it
as you read. It's the writer's voice,
of course, in a literary sense
his or her "voice" but the sound
of that voice is the sound of your voice.
Not the sound your friends know
or the sound of a tape played back
but your voice
caught in the dark cathedral
of your skull, your voice heard
by an internal ear informed by internal abstracts
and what you know by feeling, having felt. It is your voice
saying, for example, the word "barn"
that the writer wrote
but the "barn" you say
is a barn you know or knew. The voice
in your head, speaking as you read,
never says anything neutrally -- some people
hated the barn they knew,
some people love the barn they know
so you hear the word loaded
and a sensory constellation is lit: horse-gnawed stalls,
hayloft, black heat tape wrapping
a water pipe, a slippery
spilled chirrr of oats from a split sack,
the bony, filthy haunches of cows . . .
And "barn" is only a noun -- no verb
or subject has entered into the sentence yet!
                                                                            17
The voice you hear when you read to yourself
is the clearest voice: you speak it
speaking to you.


Blackberry Eating (44)
Galway Kinnell

 I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.



Blackberrying Sylvia Plath (45)

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks ---
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
To the hills' northern face, and the face is orange rock
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.
                                                       18
Phenomenal Woman (47) Maya Angelou

  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 as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
                                                                19
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

―Girl, Why Do You Take His Abuse‖ (48) Ronell Warren Alman

  Girl, when I look at your face
I could see the pain in your eyes
You're frustrated and very agitated
Time and time again. the situation looks lesser than disguise
Why do you put up with his mess
You're much better than that
Instead you're settling for less
And you're putting up with his crap
Why do you take his abuse
You suffer because you're choosing to
You're digging deeper holes for yourself
Then you just don't know what you should do
Tears are rolling down your face
You always seem dazed and confused
That guy really doesn't love you
It's no wonder that you feel like you've been used
Always in nothing but a bitter mood
Because things are just not right
Looking for a way to put things at ease
Instead of always putting up with a fight

On Turning Ten (50)
Billy Collins

  The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
                                                               20
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.


The Art Of Drowning (51)
Billy Collins

 I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs-
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about a short animated film, a slide presentation?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model photograph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography-
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all the lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

Barbie Doll (52)
Marge Piercy

 This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.
                                               21
She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker's cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.


The Gift (53)

  To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he'd removed
the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy's palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he's given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Li-Young Lee
                                                               22
TWO POEMS BY NATIVE AMERICAN POET CHRYSTOS

They have our bundles split open in         (54)
museums
our dresses shirts at auctions
our languages on tape
our stories in locked rare book libraries
our dances on film
The only part of us they can't steal
is what we know




If you ever                                        (55)
again tell me
how strong I am
I'll lay down on the ground & moan
so you'll see
at last my human weakness like
your own
I'm not strong I'm scraped
I'm blessed with life while so many
I've known are dead
I have work to do dishes to wash
a house to clean
There is no magic.

―dandelions‖ (57) by Deborah Austin

 under cover of night and rain
 the troops took over.
 waking to total war in beleaguered houses
 over breakfast we faced the batteries                    5
 marshalled by wall and stone, deployed
 with a master strategy no one had suspected
 and now all
 firing
 pow

 all day, all yesterday                                   10
 and all today
 the barrage continued
 deafening sight.
 reeling now, eyes ringing from noise, from walking
 gingerly over the mined lawns                            15
 exploded at every second
 rocked back by the starshellfire
 concussion of gold on green
 bringing battle-fatigue
 pow by lionface firefur pow by                           20
 goldburst shellshock pow by
 whoosh splat splinteryellow pow by
 pow by pow
 tomorrow smoke drifts up
 from the wrecked battalions,                             25
 all the ammunition, firegold fury gone.
 smoke
 drifts
 thistle-blown
 over the war-zone, only                                  30
                                                                                                     23
 here and there, in the shade by the
 peartree
 pow in the crack by the
 curbstone pow and back of the
 ashcan, lonely                                                  35
 guerilla snipers, hoarding
 their fire shrewdly
 never

 pow
surrender


The Black Hole in Your Heart (58)

by Cathlyn Cartier


You‘re bitter and unhappy.
You punish others because of the trauma you inflict upon yourself:

Gratuitous sex,
Overindulgence in alcohol,
Consumption of illicit drugs,
None of these fill the empty hole in your heart.

You know that what you are doing is tearing you up physically,
and of no real benefit mentally or emotionally,
yet you continue down the path of self-destruction.
The path you have chosen for yourself.
Uncaring,
Unheeding of the warning signs,
of the pleas of your friends and family;
of the people that care.

―Death is a solution,‖ you boldly proclaim,
as if you are proud of the fact that you are killing yourself a little more with each passing day.

You bemoan the fact that you feel alone,
that you‘re tired of not having anyone ‗there‘ for you,
yet you use people up.
You siphon all of the positive and good out of them,
poison them with your indifference, and then toss them aside,
like yesterday‘s news,
and walk on down your self destructive path,
leaving them to flutter away forgotten,
as you journey on,
trying to fill the gaping hole in your heart and in your soul.
                                                 24
 ―The Old Masters”…-W. H. Auden (60)

Ovid would never have guessed how far
and father‘s notion about wax melting, bah!
It‘s ice up there. Freezing.
Soaring and swooping over solitary altitudes
I was breezing along (a record I should think)
When my wings began to moult not melt.
These days, workmanship, I ask you.
Appalling.

There‘s a mountain down there on fire
and I‘m falling, falling away from it.
Phew, the sun‘s on the horizon
or am I upside down?
Great Bacchus, the sea is rearing
up. Will I drown? My white legs
the last to disappear? (I have no trousers on)
A little to the left the ploughman,
a little to the right a galleon,
a sailor climbing the rigging,
a fisherman casting his line,
and now I hear a shepherd‘s dog barking.
I‘m that near.

Lest I have no trace
but a few scattered feathers on the water
show me your face, sailor,
look up, fisherman,
look this way, shepherd,
turn around, ploughman.
Raise the alarm! Launch a boat!

My luck. I‘m seen
only by a jackass of an artist
interested in the composition, in the green
tinge of the sea, in the aesthetics
of disaster—not in me.

I drown, bubble by bubble,
(Help, Save me!)
while he stands ruthlessly
before the canvas, busy busy,
intent on becoming an Old Master.

”Art” (61) Herman Melville

   In placid hours well--pleased we dream
   Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
   But form to lend, pulsed life create,
   What unlike things must meet and mate:
   A flame to melt--a wind to freeze;
   Sad patience--joyous energies;
   Humility--yet pride and scorn;
   Instinct and study; love and hate;
   Audacity--reverence. These must mate,
   And fuse with Jacob's mystic heart,
   To wrestle with the angel--Art.
                                                            25


“Candle Hat” by Billy Collins (62)

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stars out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrandt looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting "The Blinding of Samson."

But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror
and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio
addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew
we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head
which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,
a device that alloed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would be like
to be wearing such a chandelier on your head
as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is no need to read
any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.
Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention
then laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in," he would say, "I was just painting myself,"
as he stood the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.


“PARENTS DAY” by Sharon Olds (63)

How can I have forgotten it, how I
breathed shallow as I looked for her in the
crowd of oncoming parents. I can even
clearly remember being flat-chested, how the
hard embroidered board of my chest would press
forward and I'd race toward her. I remember her
bigger than I, soft, her smile
wide and not quite beautiful but
absolutely sparkling with
consciousness of prettiness--how I
pitied the other girls for those mothers who
looked their age, who did not have bright
shining polished teeth.
Sometimes she even had braids around her head like a
goddess or an advertisement for California raisins--
ardent for her I was, leaning forward and
straining at the leash like a dog. My life was
                                                            26
rich with preference for what I had,
her cleanliness, her bright eyes,
and I felt her scrutiny, I could feel her
sensing her genes dotted here and there in my body like
undissolved sugar in a cake.
For so long all I could think of was the
long darkening of her happiness, the
years when the sweet became sour and the sour so
sour it must be evil--but now I
remember the way it felt for may heart to
bang and my lungs swell so I could feel the
tucks and puckers of the smocking on my chest press
into my ribs and the calm insensitive
pools of my nipples, my whole washboard
front tilt and sing like corrugated
silver in the sun to see that woman coming and
know she was mine.



“You Begin” by Margaret Atwood (66)

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
this is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller

and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more

words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.

This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
                                                              27
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.


And Death Shall Have No Dominion (Dylan Thomas) (67)

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.


―The Mind is a Hawk” by Walter McDonald (68)

The mind is like a hawk, trying to survive
on hardscrabble. Hunting, you wheel
sometimes for hours on thermals

rising from sand so dry
no trees
grow native. Some days, you circle
only bones and snakeskin, the same old

cactus and mesquite. The secret
is not to give up on shadows, but glide
until nothing expects it, staring

to make a desert give up dead-still
ideas like rabbits with round eyes
and rapidly beating hearts.


Jisei (Japanese death poetry) (69)
When autumn winds blow
not one leaf remains
                                                    28
the way it was.
- Togyu


Cats (70)
startled into life like fire by Charles Bukowski,

in grievous deity my cat
walks around
he walks around and around
with
electric tail and
push-button
eyes

he is
alive and
plush and
final as a plum tree

neither of us understands
cathedrals or
the man outside
watering his
lawn

if I were all the man
that he is
cat--
if there were men
like this
the world could
begin

he leaps up on the couch
and walks through
porticoes of my
admiration.

POEMS ABOUT THE WRITER’S CRAFT:


"Writing" by Howard Nemerov (72)


The cursive crawl, the squared-off characters
these by themselves delight, even without
a meaning, in a foreign language, in
Chinese, for instance, or when skaters curve
all day across the lake, scoring their white
records in ice. Being intelligible,
these winding ways with their audacities
and delicate hesitations, they become
miraculous, so intimately, out there
at the pen's point or brush's tip, do world
and spirit wed. The small bones of the wrist
balance against great skeletons of stars
exactly; the blind bat surveys his way
by echo alone. Still, the point of style
is character. The universe induces
a different tremor in every hand, from the
                                                       29
check-forger's to that of the Emperor
Hui Tsung, who called his own calligraphy
the 'Slender Gold.' A nervous man
writers nervously of a nervous world, and so on.


Miraculous. It is as thought the world
were a great writing. Having said so much,
let us allow there is more to the world
than writing: continental faults are not
bare convoluted fissures in the brain.
Not only must the skaters soon go home;
also the hard inscription of their skates
is scored across the open water, which long
remembers nothing, neither wind nor wake.

Wallace Stevens –“ The Planet On The Table‖ (73)

Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.
His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.

It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

“Digging” by Seamus Heaney (74)

 Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
                                                              30
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

“The Thought-Fox” by Ted Hughes (75)

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur (76)

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
>From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
                                                              31
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.


“How To Be a Poet” by Wendell Berry (77)
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
that you have-inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
                                                   32
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.



“Writing in the Afterlife” by Billy Collins (78)


I imagined the atmosphere would be clear,
shot with pristine light,
not this sulphurous haze,
the air ionized as before a thunderstorm.


Many have pictured a river here,
but no one mentioned all the boats,
their benches crowded with naked passengers,
each bent over a writing tablet.




I knew I would not always be a child
with a model train and a model tunnel,
and I knew I would not live forever,
jumping all day through the hoop of myself.


I had heard about the journey to the other side
and the clink of the final coin
in the leather purse of the man holding the oar,
but how could anyone have guessed


that as soon as we arrived
we would be asked to describe this place
and to include as much detail as possible—
not just the water, he insists,


rather the oily, fathomless, rat-happy water,
not simply the shackles, but the rusty,
iron, ankle-shredding shackles—
and that our next assignment would be


to jot down, off the tops of our heads,
                                                                                       33
our thoughts and feelings about being dead,
not really an assignment,
the man rotating the oar keeps telling us—


think of it more as an exercise, he groans,
think of writing as a process,
a never-ending, infernal process,
and now the boats have become jammed together,


bow against stern, stern locked to bow,
and not a thing is moving, only our diligent pens.




                                                “The Secret” (79) by Denise Levertov

                                                         Two girls discover
                                                          the secret of life
                                                         in a sudden line of
                                                               poetry.

                                                        I who don't know the
                                                            secret wrote
                                                           the line. They
                                                              told me

                                                       (through a third person)
                                                           they had found it
                                                          but not what it was
                                                               not even

                                                     what line it was. No doubt
                                                     by now, more than a week
                                                      later, they have forgotten
                                                               the secret,

                                                        the line, the name of
                                                       the poem. I love them
                                                          for finding what
                                                             I can't find,

                                                          and for loving me
                                                         for the line I wrote,
                                                         and for forgetting it
                                                                so that

                                                     a thousand times, till death
                                                        finds them, they may
                                                      discover it again, in other
                                                                 lines

                                                              in other
                                                        happenings. And for
                                                         wanting to know it,
                                                                 for
                                                                                       34
                                                                 assuming there is
                                                                 such a secret, yes,
                                                                      for that
                                                                    most of all.

“Why I Am Not A Painter”          by Frank O’Hara (80)


I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why?
I think I would rather be a painter, but I am not.
Well, for instance, Mike Goldberg is starting a painting.
I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he says.
I drink; we drink.
I look up.
"You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh."
I go and the days go by and I drop in again.
The painting is going on, and I go, and the days go by.
I drop in.
The painting is finished.
"Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me?
One day I am thinking of a color: orange.
I write a line about orange.
Pretty soon it is a whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page.
There should be so much more, not of orange, of words, of how terrible
orange is and life.
Days go by.
It is even in prose, I am a real poet.
My poem is finished and I haven't mentioned orange yet.
It's twelve poems, I call it ORANGES.
And one day in a gallery I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.


"Metaphor" by Eve Merriam (81)

Morning is
a new sheet of paper
for you to write on.

Whatever you want to say,
all day,
until night
folds it up
and files it away.

The bright words and the dark words
are gone
until dawn
and a new day
to write on.
                                                     35
"A Far Cry From Africa"--Derek Walcott, 1957 (82)

A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa. Kikuyu, quick as flies
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
But still the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
'Waste no compassion on these separate dead'
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?

Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilization's dawn
From the parched river or beast-teeming plain;
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still, that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.

Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain.
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.

I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?


―Heritage‖ by Countee Cullen (83)

 What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

So I lie, who all day long
Want no sound except the song
Sung by wild barbaric birds
Goading massive jungle herds,
Juggernauts of flesh that pass
Trampling tall defiant grass
Where young forest lovers lie,
Plighting troth beneath the sky.
                                         36
So I lie, who always hear,
Though I cram against my ear
Both my thumbs, and keep them there,
Great drums throbbing through the air.
So I lie, whose fount of pride,
Dear distress, and joy allied,
Is my somber flesh and skin,
With the dark blood dammed within
Like great pulsing tides of wine
That, I fear, must burst the fine
Channels of the chafing net
Where they surge and foam and fret.

Africa?A book one thumbs
Listlessly, till slumber comes.
Unremembered are her bats
Circling through the night, her cats
Crouching in the river reeds,
Stalking gentle flesh that feeds
By the river brink; no more
Does the bugle-throated roar
Cry that monarch claws have leapt
From the scabbards where they slept.
Silver snakes that once a year
Doff the lovely coats you wear,
Seek no covert in your fear
Lest a mortal eye should see;
What's your nakedness to me?
Here no leprous flowers rear
Fierce corollas in the air;
Here no bodies sleek and wet,
Dripping mingled rain and sweat,
Tread the savage measures of
Jungle boys and girls in love.
What is last year's snow to me,
Last year's anything?The tree
Budding yearly must forget
How its past arose or set--
Bough and blossom, flower, fruit,
Even what shy bird with mute
Wonder at her travail there,
Meekly labored in its hair.
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

So I lie, who find no peace
Night or day, no slight release
From the unremittent beat
Made by cruel padded feet
Walking through my body's street.
Up and down they go, and back,
Treading out a jungle track.
So I lie, who never quite
Safely sleep from rain at night--
I can never rest at all
When the rain begins to fall;
Like a soul gone mad with pain
I must match its weird refrain;
Ever must I twist and squirm,
                                      37
Writhing like a baited worm,
While its primal measures drip
Through my body, crying, "Strip!
Doff this new exuberance.
Come and dance the Lover's Dance!"
In an old remembered way
Rain works on me night and day.

Quaint, outlandish heathen gods
Black men fashion out of rods,
Clay, and brittle bits of stone,
In a likeness like their own,
My conversion came high-priced;
I belong to Jesus Christ,
Preacher of humility;
Heathen gods are naught to me.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
So I make an idle boast;
Jesus of the twice-turned cheek,
Lamb of God, although I speak
With my mouth thus, in my heart
Do I play a double part.
Ever at Thy glowing altar
Must my heart grow sick and falter,
Wishing He I served were black,
Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it,
Let who would or might deride it;
Surely then this flesh would know
Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord, I fashion dark gods, too,
Daring even to give You
Dark despairing features where,
Crowned with dark rebellious hair,
Patience wavers just so much as
Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise
To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need
Sometimes shapes a human creed.

All day long and all night through,
One thing only must I do:
Quench my pride and cool my blood,
Lest I perish in the flood.
Lest a hidden ember set
Timber that I thought was wet
Burning like the dryest flax,
Melting like the merest wax,
Lest the grave restore its dead.
Not yet has my heart or head
In the least way realized
They and I are civilized.
                                                           38
Soyinka's "Telephone Conversation" (84)-Wole Soyinka
Telephone Conversation

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. "Madame," I warned,
"I hate a wasted journey—I am African."
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
"HOW DARK?"... I had not misheard... "ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?" Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red Pillar –box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis —
"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
"You mean — like plain or milk chocolate?"
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. "West African Sepia" — and as afterthought,
"Down in my passport." Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. "WHAT‘S THAT?" conceding
"DON‘T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
"THAT‘S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused —
Foolishly madam — by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black — One moment madam!" — sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears — "Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn‘t you rather
See for yourself?"

The Man with Night Sweats (85)
by Thom Gunn

I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake to their residue,
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.

My flesh was its own shield:
Where it was gashed, it healed.
I grew as I explored
The body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry,
                                                        39
My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed,
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am
Hugging my body to me
As if to shield it from
The pains that will go through me,

As if hands were enough
To hold an avalanche off.

Alden Nowlan's "The Execution": (86)

On the night of the execution
a man at the door
mistook me for the coroner,
"Press," I said.

But he didn't understand. He led me
into the wrong room
where the sheriff greeted me:
"You're late, Padre."

"You're wrong," I told him. "I'm Press."
"Yes, of course, Reverend Press."
We went down a stairway.

"Ah, Mr. Ellis," said the Deputy.
"Press!" I shouted. But he shoved me
through a black curtain.
The lights were so bright
I couldn't see the faces
Of the men sitting
opposite. But, thank God, I thought,
they can see me!

"Look!" I cried. "Look at my face!
Doesn't anybody know me?"

Then a hood covered my head.
"Don't make it harder for us," the hangman whispered.




Those Winter Sundays (87)

  Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback 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,
                                        40
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?

Robert Hayden

				
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