Archive for May, 2007

Danse Russe

If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

-William Carlos Williams


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Giving Up

It is good to be
Not good enough

To not know where the line breaks should go
To get angry at a fussy computer
To spill hot chocolate on it
To dislike Sunday evenings as the sun is going down
And you have to work all week
But don’t have money
For coffee

It is okay
To look through the hall of the century
Through your shoddy lens
And feel wistful for the Parisian twenties
To imagine that Gertrude Stein
Knew something you don’t

In all my words I kept planting a song
A hopeful victory song
Of a metal-chested knight,
His fist to his heart
I kept saying
I have something to say

But sometimes
It is just what it is
Here, in this moment
Not knowing what to say
Or where to put the line breaks
Just sliding down on someone
Else’s convention
Rushing through a poem
Without hope
Of answering
The vibration
That knaws
To know

-Nina Alvarez

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Brothers in Arms (lyrics)

These mist-covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you’ll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There’s so many different worlds
So many differents suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the sun’s gone to hell
And the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We’re fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

-Dire Straights

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Caged Bird

Some believe there’s somewhere in the brain
that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth’s
magnetic field and uses a sort of memory
of that to travel the same route year after year
over thousands of miles, over open ocean
on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock
that, save for weather’s influence, tells
when it’s time to go. But they utter nothing
of thwarted dreams in birds’ brains, how
a few cubic feet near the ground, however
well-kept and lighted, however large it seems
around a small bright bird, is like a fist
closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times
of year, the bird’s heart races as if to power flight.

-Matthew J. Spireng

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The Unicorn

The Unicorn stood, like a king in a dream,
On the bank of a dark Senegambian stream;
And flaming flamingoes flew over his head,
As the African sun rose in purple and red.

Who knows what the thoughts of a unicorn are
When he shines on the world like a rising star;
When he comes from the magical pages of story
In the pride of his horn and a halo of glory?

He followed the paths where the jungle beasts go,
And he walked with a step that was stately and slow;
But he threw not a shadow and made not a sound,
And his foot was as light as the wind on the ground.

The lion looked up with his terrible eyes,
And growled like the thunder to hide his surprise.
He thought for a while, with a paw in the air;
Then tucked up his tail and turned into his lair.

The gentle giraffe ran away to relate
The news to his tawny and elegant mate,
While the snake slid aside with a venomous hiss,
And the little birds piped: ‘There is something amiss!’

But the Unicorn strode with his head in a cloud
And uttered his innocent fancies aloud.
‘What a wonderful world!’ he was heard to exclaim;
‘It is better than books: it is sweeter than fame!’

And he gazed at himself, with a thrill and a quiver,
Reflected in white by the slow-flowing river:
‘O speak to me, dark Senegambian stream,
And prove that my beauty is more than a dream!’

He had paused for a word in the midst of his pride,
When a whisper came down through the leaves at his side
From a spying, malevolent imp of an ape
With a twist in his tail and a villainous shape:

‘He was made by the stroke of a fanciful pen;
He was wholly invented by ignorant men.
One word in his ear, and one puff of the truth-
And a unicorn fades in the flower of his youth,’

The Unicorn heard, and the demon of doubt
Crept into his heart, and the sun was put out.
He looked in the water, but saw not a gleam
In the slow-flowing deep Senegambian stream.

He turned to the woods, and his shadowy form
Was seen through the trees like the moon in a storm.
And the darkness fell down on the Gambian plain;
And the stars of the Senegal sought him in vain.

He had come like a beautiful melody heard
When the strings of the fiddle are tunefully stirred;
And he passed where the splendours of melody go
When the hand of the fiddler surrenders the bow.

-E. V. Rieu

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In the Old Days a Poet Once Said

In the old days a poet once said
our nation is destroyed
yet the mountains and rivers survive

Today’s poet says
the mountains and rivers are destroyed
yet our nation survives

Tomorrow’s poet will say
the mountains and rivers are destroyed
our nation is destroyed and Alas!
you and I are completely destroyed

-by Ko Un

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Just for today

if it swims in front of you,
you must grab it.

If it pinches you
you must pinch it back.

If it is soft against you,
you must forget it.
And then remember it right
before sleep.

-Nina Alvarez

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anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

-E.E. Cummings

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If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don’t, and what if I do?

-Dorothy Parker

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Commandment Ten


I love your eyes

they look like mine

they are dead

without design


And first comes first

second mission

this young breath

or hardened tail, this sort of

alabaster piece of history

standing tall on or around it



The first step and is it wandering?

The first hiccup, drawing out wonder

in the shape of a rabbit’s ear, a small

mole. the heart of a gutted deer

thrown to the underbrush

blood smell for darker.


I love your eyes

they’re dead like mine

uncurtained, hollow

to a white stone wind


Here is the first path, followed

commandment ten

swallowing wind: thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s husband


too true, blue shoe


And boundless and bountiful

like far fields

I see us stretched under a horizon

that knew us

in different bodies

your name, still Brian

I had another name

my hair was dark

so was yours

and you were taller than me

but you were

still you


Oh parade of glad tidings

she sings to the salty,

North Philly air,

the shade of a shire

some fragments of an image

in an Ikea catalog

this is called

a life.


(in the shallows

I heard you whisper

a quiet cut in a finger

it told me to tell you

these things)


Sun, moon, sun, moon

and the answers someone

called God gave in the reeds

that whistle at the lake

At Sodus Bay, where the white bellies

of sunfish float up around the dim banks


I wonder about you, where you grew up

not the town, but

what sorts of grasses, breezes, lonelinesses

Why did you work so hard

why was it so important

to tell me you were special

-Nina Alvarez


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