Archive for May, 2007


I think the dead are tender. Shall we kiss? –
My lady laughs, delighting in what is.
If she but sighs, a bird puts out its tongue.
She makes space lonely with a lovely song.
She lilts a low soft language, and I hear
Down long sea-chambers of the inner ear.

We sing together; we sing mouth to mouth.
The garden is a river flowing south.
She cries out loud the soul’s own secret joy;
She dances, and the ground bears her away.
She knows the speech of light, and makes it plain
A lively thing can come to life again.

I feel her presence in the common day,
In that slow dark that widens every eye.
She moves as water moves, and comes to me,
Stayed by what was, and pulled by what would be.

-Theodore Roethke


Read Full Post »

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

-Stevie Smith

Read Full Post »

Spring and Fall, to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Read Full Post »

Agnes Kelley, 51, Died of Pneumonia, 1906

I am long dead to you
Bones make sounds,

rattle under rock

This is my rock
And I talk

We are long dead
The ones who whisper
The ones who
Wander in a
Country shed

Batting at rakes
And plates
And sparrows
This breath is talking
And you are listening

And we made it here
Through the great beyond
I laugh to think what you call it
It was a journey
I do not recall
What it took
Where it was
The time

If time exists

But we took it
To come here
And thought there
Was a hole somewhere in it
Up to heaven

I haven’t been canceled
Or put out
I am here
As real as relish
Not dead
No, not like they say

Not dead with a foot of rot
And a soul singing to God

I am here in a burned out charnel house
In the cavity of a lamb
In the crack of a sidewalk
Creeping like a spider
Shifting like a snake
I am darkness now
And the sun does not warm
A cold steel drum
Beats out
The long life
Of my death

-Nina Alvarez

Read Full Post »


She asked me
to walk by her side,
the velvet path
of sweet rosed lines.

-Rick Wright

Read Full Post »

White Beard

Tonight I am the old man’s white beard
wizened and grizzled in deep lined cuts
resigned to the slope and bend of flesh
gravity pulled furrows over ashen dust

It was the clink of glasses that started this
taking small potent steps down the hall
inching closer to her hated breath
the weight of her, heavy, lurking,

creaking the same wood boards
Can one grow into a giant overnight
when the yearning stops and the
becoming is

knowing one’s art is revealed, suddenly
unearthed by one massive heave
of black earth

To know a person for so long
and see their face go colorless
foul scents utter unrecognizable clods
of rancid words and clouded tongue

Should I take on hatred and this dark
into me, onto me, held and sacred
like the vows now melted away by
the lightest heat from palest sun

Something disappears from me tonight
A piece I can never reclaim or repair
a note held deep in my heart
now scratched thin out of a rusty flute
aching for its rounded wonder
spitting tin and teeth and nails
It was the clink of glasses that started this
a dark celebration and bitter turn
a collapse and fold and deep line cut
of the old man’s white beard

-Rick Wright

Read Full Post »

Leda and the Swan

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

-W. B. Yeats

Read Full Post »

Rain Upon the Gossip Tree

The window frames the Gossip tree tonight
Dark brick below
A clean gray blue above
It rained for over an hour
The air cooled
I thought of you
The birds sung
My room felt like a rain forest

I think of what I would say to you
I scratch my arm
There are many songs I could sing
Lullabyes and ballads
Sung a thousand times
They are so deep, like ruts
So easy to flow into
They tell a story you would like to be a part of

But I cannot imagine how I have come here
And that is what interests me
The question of being
How I came to be in this body
In this city

What of my past?
-the room I lived in during grad school
Pacific Ocean
in its particular composition
of molecules
and vectors
in February 2000.

Where are the hours I thought
I would be in so much trouble
If I didn’t finish a paper, or read
Another chapter, or get to class on time

In what way have I escaped?
I look around me.
I am 29 years old, I live in
Philadelphia. I work.

You are 42. You are getting divorced. There is
A house involved. I live in an apartment. You
Have a studio. We sketch on Thursday nights.

I am me. The me who slipped, who wanted to die.
I am me, whose skin burned with self-consciousness,
Who saw pathos in bracelets and ponytails, who
Couldn’t befriend people she wanted to be.

I am her, but I am not her anymore. I am easy,
I make many words, and have a sure voice. I don’t

But I don’t write my poems
Like I used to.
The need to confirm
That I have an interior.

My eyes had not adjusted to dreams or light,
Now, they suffuse all, and involve themselves in all.
I spare no personal expense
In entering.
But I spend nothing I do not wish to spend.

And yet, and yet,
Who is this
With arms that wave
With fingers that fly
Who I will not be
In a moment
Or day

Who is in this body
Who will remain in this body
But who will be left behind
In this Sunday evening, May 2007.

-Nina Alvarez 

Read Full Post »

The Ninth Elegy

Why, if it’s possible to spend this span
of existence as laurel, a little darker than all
other greens, with little waves on every
leaf-edge (like the smile of a breeze), why, then,
must we be human and, shunning destiny,
long for it?…

Oh, not because happiness,

that over-hasty profit of loss impending, exists.
Not from curiosity, or to practise the heart,
that would also be in the laurel…
but because to be here is much, and the transient Here
seems to need and concern us strangely. Us, the most transient.
Everyone once, once only. Just once and no
And we also once, Never again. But this having been
once, although only once, to have been of the
seems irrevocable.

And so we drive ourselves and want to achieve it,
want to hold it in our simple hands,
in the surfeited gaze and in the speechless heart.
want to become it. give it to whom? Rather
keep all forever…but to the other realm,
alas, what can be taken? Not the power of seeing,
learned here so slowly, and nothing that’s happened here.
Nothing. Maybe the suffering? Before all, the heaviness
and long experience of love–unutterable things.
But later, under the stars, what then? They are better
untold of.
The wanderer does not bring a handful of earth,
the unutterable, from the mountain slope to the valley,
but a pure word he has learned, the blue
and yellow gentian. Are we here perhaps just to say:
house, bridge, well, gate, jug, fruit tree, window–
at most, column, tower… but to say, understand this, to say
as the Things themselves never fervently thought to be.
Is it not the hidden cunning of secretive earth
when it urges on the lovers, that everything seems transfigured
in their feelings? Threshold, what is it for two lovers
that they wear away a little of their own older doorstill,
they also, after the many before,
and before those yet coming…lightly?
Here is the time for the unutterable, here,
its country.
Speak and acknowledge it. More than ever
the things that we can live by are falling away,
supplanted by an action without symbol.
An action beneath crusts that easily crack, as soon as
the inner working outgrows and otherwise limits itself.
Our heart exists between hammers,
like the tongue between the teeth,
but notwithstanding, the tongue
always remains the praiser.
Praise the world to the angel, not the unutterable world;
you cannot astonish him with your glorious feelings;
in the universe, where he feels more sensitively,
you’re just a beginner. Therefore, show him the simple
thing that is shaped in passing from father to son,
that lives near our hands and eyes as our very own.
Tell him about the Things. He’ll stand amazed, as you stood
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how blameless and ours;
how even the lamentation of sorrow purely decides
to take form, serves as a thing, or dies
in a thing, and blissfully in the beyond
escapes the violin. And these things that live,
slipping away, understand that you praise them;
transitory themselves, they trust us for rescue,
us, the most transient of all. They wish us to transmute them
in our invisible heart–oh, infinitely into us! Whoever we are.
Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly
to arise in us? Is it not your dream
to be some day invisible? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your insistent commission?
Earth, dear one, I will! Oh, believe it needs
not one more of your springtimes to win me over.
One, just one, is already too much for my blood.
From afar I’m utterly determined to be yours.
You were always right and your sacred revelation is the intimate
Behold, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less…surplus of existence
is welling up in my heart.

-Ranier Maria Rilke

Read Full Post »

In Every Direction

As if you actually died in that dream
and woke up dead. Shadows of untangling vines
tumble toward the ceiling. A delicate
lizard sits on your shoulder, its eyes
blinking in every direction.

And when you lean forward and present your
hands to the basin of water, and glimpse the glass face
that is reflected there, it seems perfectly at home
beneath the surface, about as unnatural
as nature forcing everyone to face the music
with so much left to do, with everything
that could be done better tomorrow, to dance
the slow shuffle of decay.

Only one season becoming another,
continents traveling the skyway, the grass
breathing. And townspeople, victims, murderers,
the gold-colored straw and barbed-wire hair of the world
wafting over the furrows, the slashed roads
to the door of your office or into the living room.

The towel is warm and cool, soft to the touch,
but in another dream altogether
a screen door creaks open, slams shut,
and across the valley a car’s headlights swing up
and over. And maybe you are the driver
with both hands on the wheel, humming a tune
nobody’s ever heard before,

or maybe the woman on the edge of the porch,
grown quiet from fleeing,
tough as nails.

-Ralph Angel

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »