Friday, December 28, 2012

In Tenebris

All within is warm,
    Here without it's very cold,
    Now the year is grown so old
And the dead leaves swarm.

In your heart is light,
    Here without it's very dark,
    When shall I hear the lark?
When see aright?

Oh, for a moment's space!
    Draw the clinging curtains wide
    Whilst I wait and yearn outside
Let the light fall on my face.

- Ford Madox Ford

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everyone Was in Love

One day, when they were little, Maud and Fergus
appeared in the doorway, naked and mirthful,
with a dozen long garter snakes draped over
each of them like brand-new clothes.
Snake tails dangled down their backs,
and snake foreparts in various lengths
fell over their fronts, heads raised
and swaying, alert as cobras. They writhed their dry skins
upon each other, as snakes like doing
in lovemaking, with the added novelty
of caressing soft, smooth, moist human skin.
Maud and Fergus were deliciously pleased with themselves.
The snakes seemed to be tickled too.
We were enchanted. Everyone was in love.
Then Maud drew down off Fergus’s shoulder,
as off a tie rack, a peculiarly
lumpy snake and told me to look inside.
Inside that double-hinged jaw, a frog’s green
webbed hind feet were being drawn,
like a diver’s, very slowly as if into deepest waters.
Perhaps thinking I might be considering rescue,
Maud said, “Don’t. Frog is already elsewhere.”

-Galway Kinnell

Friday, December 14, 2012

One Art

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.

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 love) 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.

- Elizabeth Bishop

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Como lo Siento

I heard an owl at midday.
A crow flew, spiraled, drifted,
and I thought of the circle
my own life made, and how
at heart I'm a hoverer
the way I've always drifted
toward you.
Another owl lifted from the palm.
She showed me how I rose, caught
in the wind by your skin and tongue.
I feel scooped from the banks like clay,
smoked and fired by your eyes
til I ring. I'm paralyzed by joy
and I forget how to act.
I'm a shell in the cliffs.
a thousand miles from sea.
You tide me and I rise,
and there's no truth
more simple.

- Lorna Dee Cervantes

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winding Up

I live on the water,
alone. Without wife and children,
I have circled every possibility
to come to this:

a low house by grey water,
with windows always open
to the stale sea. We do not choose such things,

but we are what we have made.
We suffer, the years pass,
we shed freight but not our need

for encumbrances. Love is a stone
that settled on the sea-bed
under grey water. Now, I require nothing

from poetry but true feeling,
no pity, no fame, no healing. Silent wife,
we can sit watching grey water,

and in a life awash
with mediocrity and trash
live rock-like.

I shall unlearn feeling,
unlearn my gift. That is greater
and harder than what passes there for life.

- Derek Walcott

Ferniehirst Castle

This was our first line of defense. It held
about five minutes. What could we throw at them?
A few chickens to trip over, a cow to block the road,
and one farmer who didn't want anyone hurt.
Sheep and maze remained neutral.
The priest who worked the chapel changed a few
key names in the sermon and went on.

Was there ever a better place to let the enemy through
and years later when he came back enroute home
to act as if nothing had changed?
Nothing has changed. Did you have trouble
fording the Jedwater river? 'Was there
a one eyed farmer, not quite right in the head?
He died. Come in and get warm.
Stay here until you are strong enough to go on.

Centuries have passed since then, all of them
just as bad. The sermon changed this way
and that and couldn't keep up with the times.
Despite architectural plans, rooks know
this castle will go to ruin. When they come for good
as they always do when they find broken stone,
they'll spend their lives on basics, searching for food
and flapping dark signals to the man taking notes.

We do best with short range plans,
so limited rooks take off bewildered.
In any century, to stay humane we lived
in one or another kind of isolation, far as we could
from highway and harm. Exert then,
too much ocean too long or forest, our eyes
started to see things and our blood turned to rain.
This is very old mortar. If we do this and not that
to the floor and don't get too smart with the ceiling
all who return with very old hurt in their eyes
will know they are welcome.

-Richard Hugo

Becoming a Horse

It was dragging my hands along its belly,
loosing the bit and wiping the spit
from its mouth that made me
a snatch of grass in the thing's maw,
a fly tasting its ear. It was
touching my nose to his that made me know
the clover's bloom, my wet eye to his that
made me know the long field's secrets.
But it was putting my heart to the horse's that made me know
the sorrow of horses. Made me
forsake my thumbs for the sheen of unshod hooves.
And in the way drop my torches.
And in the way drop my knives.
Feel the small song in my chest
swell and my coat glisten and twitch.
And my face grow long.
And these words cast off, at last,
for the slow honest tongue of horses.

- Ross Gay