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Archive for September, 2007

Assault

I

I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

II

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

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The Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arm, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe

-Lewis Carroll

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A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! — and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and
followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting
artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does
your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel
absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to
shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in
driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you
have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and
stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

-Allen Ginsberg

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Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About

 

My pants could maybe fall down when I dive off the diving board.

My nose could maybe keep growing and never quit.

Miss Brearly could ask me to spell words like stomach and special.

(Stumick and speshul?)

I could play tag all day and always be “it.”

Jay Spievack, who’s fourteen feet tall, could want to fight me.

My mom and my dad–like Ted’s–could want a divorce.

Miss Brearly could ask me a question about Afghanistan.

(Who’s Afghanistan?)

Somebody maybe could make me ride a horse.

My mother could maybe decide that I needed more liver.

My dad could decide that I needed less TV.

Miss Brearly could say that I have to write script and stop printing.

(I’m better at printing.)

Chris could decide to stop being friends with me.

The world could maybe come to an end on next Tuesday.

The ceiling could maybe come crashing on my head.

I maybe could run out of things for me to worry about.

And then I’d have to do my homework instead.

-Judith Viorst

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from Last Poems

THE laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I , and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

-A.E. Housman

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Poem at Thirty

The rich little kids across the street

twist their swings in knots. Near me,

on the porch, wasps jazz old nesting tunes

and don’t get wild over human sweat.

This is the first summer of my middle life.

I ought to be content. The mindless harsh

process of history; with its diverse murders

and starvations, its whippings, humiliations,

child-tyrants, and beasts, I don’t care for

or understand. Nor do I understand

restlessness that sometimes stops my sleep.

Waking, those mornings, is like being thrown from a train.

All you know comes to falling:

the body, in its witless crooning for solidity,

keeps heading for the ground.

There is no air, no sound, nothing

but dumb insistence of body weight

coming down, and there is no thought of love,

or passing time, or don’t want to be alone.

Probably one hundred thousand impressions

wrinkle the brain in a moment like this,

but if you could think about it

you’d admit the world goes on in any case,

roars on, in fact, without you, on its endless iron track.

But most mornings I ease awake:

also a falling,

but delicate as an agile wing

no one may touch with hands,

a transparent wing like a distant moan

arriving disembodied of pleasure or pain,

a wing that dissolves on the tongue,

a wing that has never flown.

Because I’ve awakened like this,

I think I could love myself quietly

and let the world go on.

So today I watched a pudgy neighbor

edge her lawn, and heard the small blade whine;

I saw her husband, the briefcase man,

whiz off in his Mercedes without a glance.

I believe I’m beginning to understand

that I don’t know what such things mean:

stupid pain or pure tranquillity,

desire’s dull ache or conquering the body,

the need to say we and be known to someone

or what I see in myself as I sit here alone.

The sun glares most mornings

like an executive’s thick pinky diamond,

and slowly the dark backs off

This is one reason this morning I awakened.

No one can tell you how to be alone.

Some fine people I’ve known swirl to me

in airy forms like just so much hot dust.

They have all moved through in dreams.

A lover’s smell, the gut laugh of a friend,

become hard to recall as a particular wind.

No one can tell you how to be alone.

Like the deep vacuum in sleep, nothing

holds you up or knocks you down, only

it doesn’t end in waking but goes on and on.

The tangles of place, the floating in time,

you must accept gently like a favorite dream.

If you can’t, and you don’t, the mind

unlocks the mind. Madness, with his lewd grin,

always waits outside the window, always

wanting to come in. I’ve gone out before,

both to slit his throat and to kiss his hand.

No one can tell you how to be alone:

Watch tiny explosions as flowers break ground;

hear the children giggle, rapid and clean.

It’s hard to care about ordinary things.

Doesn’t pain expand from lack of change?

I can’t grasp exactly the feelings of anyone.

No one can tell you how to be alone.

At thirty the body begins to slow down.

Does that make for the quiet on this porch,

a chemical ability to relax and watch?

If a kid bounces her pelvis against a chain-link fence,

bounces so metal sings

and it seems she must be hurting herself

how old must I get before I tell her to stop?

Right now, I let her do it.

She’s so beautiful in her filthy T-shirt

and gym shorts, her hair swings with each clang,

and she can do no wrong.

I let her do it as background music

to storm clouds moving in like a dark army.

I let her do it as a fond wish for myself

I feel the vibration of the fence

as a wasp feels voices on a pane of glass.

The song in it I can’t make out.

This day, then, ends in rain

but almost everyone will live through it.

Tomorrow’s thousands losing their loved ones

have not yet stepped into never being the same again.

Maybe the sun’s first light will hit me

in those moments, but I’d gladly wake to feel it:

the dramatic opening of a day,

clean blood pumping from the heart.

-Michael Ryan

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In Paths Untrodden, from “Calamus”

In paths untrodden,

In the growth by margins of pond-waters,

Escaped from the life that exhibits itself,

From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the

pleasures, profits, conformities,

Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,

Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me

that my soul,

That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades,

Here by myself away from the clank of the world,

Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,

No longer abash’d, (for in this secluded spot I can respond

as I would not dare elsewhere,)

Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet

contains all the rest,

Resolv’d to sing no songs to-day but those of manly

attachment,

Projecting them along that substantial life,

Bequeathing hence types of athletic love,

Afternoon this delicious Ninth-month in my forty-first

year,

I proceed for all who are or have been young men,

To tell the secret of my nights and days,

To celebrate the need of comrades.

-Walt Whitman

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