Other People's Poetry
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That spring everything grew wild
and the rain came down like punishment.
You sat on the fire escape until
the ashtrays were snow drifts.
Change came ugly then.
Showed up alone with moldy suitcases
and too many demands, speaking the language
of hard looks and wine headaches.

The memories are hazy now.
Something about a girl
like a light at the end of the tunnel.
Something about panic in your chest
and a new scar on your thigh.
Something about an tearful phone call
on the overnight train back home.
What no one ever talks about
is how dangerous hope can be.
Call it forgiveness
with teeth.

 

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: LittleOddMe · 5/16/14 9:46 AM)

I stopped going to therapy
because I knew my therapist was right
and I wanted to keep being wrong.
I wanted to keep my bad habits
like charms on a bracelet.
I did not want to be brave.
I think I like my brain best
in a bar fight with my heart.
I think I like myself a little broken.
I’m ok if that makes me less loved.
I like poetry better than therapy anyway.
The poems never judge me
for healing wrong.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Slaz · 4/24/14 1:03 PM)

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Slaz · 3/23/14 4:34 AM)
some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I'll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they'll find me there.
it's Cherub, they'll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
then, I'll rise with a roar,
rant, rage -
curse them and the universe
as I send them scattering over the
lawn.
I'll feel much better,
sit down to toast and eggs,
hum a little tune,
suddenly become as lovable as a
pink
overfed whale.
some people never go crazy.
what truly horrible lives
they must lead.
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Gyminy · 2/28/14 10:42 AM)

For (and from) Jasmine, an old friend from Vox who died yesterday after many years of dealing with cancer (and all it brings) as best she could:

 

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

 

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

 

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

 

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

 

Collected Poems (HarperCollins, 1958)

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: LittleOddMe · 2/4/14 7:12 AM)

ONE

The difference between being loved and being fucked is I can’t remember how the first feels. I have a body like an open door. I have a body like an open hand. It is too easy to hold me.

Find me a boy with a heart more hopeful than spun sugar on a hot day, I will teach him to render me meaningless. The whole time, every moment, wishing he’d crack me open, rib by rib, to see how I work. How I bleed.

TWO

Here is the bitter truth: that mouthful of thorns you called our last kiss still lingers after so many others.

THREE

Darlings, sometimes love will come to you like a fire to a forest. When it does, be braver than I was. Just leave. Take only what you can carry. No tears, no second thoughts. You have hands like tinder boxes, the smallest spark will kill you.

Get in the car. Take water to the maps. Avoid gas stations. Don’t look at the flames dancing in the rear view mirror. Go to new cities, climb on the rooftops and slow dance with your coldest memories. Wallpaper your new home with every dusty, desperate love letter you swore you’d never send.

Find a stranger with sharp edges and uncharted hips. Press your stories into their skin and forget you ever knew his name. Just promise you won’t think of embers or smoke.
Even when there is ash in your hair. Even when there is soot in your lungs.

FOUR

It’s 11 am and I’m sitting in a restaurant 3 beers in. Believe me, even I’m surprised
I’m still alive sometimes. I have been drinking about you for 2 days. Lately you remind me of a wild thing chewing through its foot. But you are already free and I don’t know what to do except trace the rough line of your jaw and try not to place blame. Here is the truth: It is hard to be in love with someone who is in love someone else. I don’t know how to turn that into poetry.

FIVE

I am 15 and he is my first boyfriend. He is 18 and 6’4” and his hands are the size of thick textbooks. He says he has a lot to teach me. He is drowning in his sadness. Drowning people often believe if they grab hold of someone else they can be saved, but it just makes you both sink faster.

I am 17 and she is my first girlfriend. The only thing we do more often than fight is fuck each other. I tell her about the boy’s hands and she tries to stretch her fingers wide to mimic them. I say stop it. I say I love you as you are.

I am 19 and in the first of many dirty rooms with books strewn everywhere and a mattress in one corner. These rooms always belong to boys with unshaved faces and tender hearts. Boys like this are a dime a dozen, but I don’t know that yet because tonight I’m with the first one. He hands me a beer. He says he thinks I’m smart. He orders me to take off my clothes.

I am 20 and in love with someone who tells a lot of lies. The punishment for telling lies is that I become cruel. The punishment for being cruel is being abandoned.

I am 20 and it is not sex because I don’t say yes. I say stop but that doesn’t make it stop. I am 20 and crying because my friend Aaron wants to kiss me, and I know if he does I’ll still taste like betrayal.

SIX

The Ways I Didn’t Leave You:

Even though I knew how it felt to love someone with a heart like the sharp edge of a knife, I pulled out the whetstone.

I asked you to bend, to be small enough to close my fist around. I wanted to be certain you could never get away.

I knew there was someone else, but I started looking through your pockets for proof I was wrong.

I threw a wine glass across the kitchen like a fastball, we both stood and stared at the shattered glass, proof that good people do terrible things.

I said “I love you” when I meant something much more specific, I should have said “Please don’t leave me, I’m afraid to sleep alone.”

SEVEN

I thought leaving you would be easy, just walking out the door. But I keep getting pinned against it with my legs around your waist. It’s like my lips want you like my lungs want air, it’s just what they were born to do.

So I am sitting at work thinking of you cutting vegetables in my kitchen. Your hair in my shower drain. Your fingers on my spine in the morning while we listen to Muddy Waters. I don’t know why I’ve got so much hope pinned to someone who will never call me home, but the way you talk about poems like Marxists talk of revolution it makes me want to keep trying. In the mornings, in my shower drain, in the music, I am looking for reasons to love you. I am looking for proof that you love me.

EIGHT

Here is what I know: You drink your coffee black and we are afraid of each other. Once you kissed my neck in front of your friends and it made me very shy. Once you kissed my stomach and I started crying. I see the tender way you touch things and want to kiss your nose but I keep my mouth to myself. Your collarbones are craters big enough to fit my fist into. You are the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in months. I was not good to the last person I loved so I punished my heart (I let it break and bleed out then roughly sewed it back together.) It is hard to write poems when I only know how to fuck you. I am always trying. I am thinking of Somedays. I am saying goodbye. You asked why I never write anything honest so I am writing you this.

NINE

You told me mornings were the best time to break your own heart. So here I am
smoking your brand of cigarettes for the scent. I wonder if you still sing Beatles songs while you make coffee. You said your mother sang them to you when you couldn’t sleep, 19 years before we met and 20 before you moved your clothes out of our closet while I was at work. By the way I hate you for leaving all the photographs on the fridge, taking them down felt like peeling off new scabs, felt like slapping a sunburn. I spent so many nights carving your body into pillows I can promise you nothing feels like sleeping with your arm slung over me and your breath in my ear. Still, it’s comforting to know we sleep under the same moon, even if she’s so much older when she gets to me. I like to imagine she’s seen you sleeping, and wants me to know you’re doing well.

TEN

I know you and I are not about poems or other sentimental bullshit, but I have to tell you even the way you drink your coffee just knocks me the fuck out.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

           Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0

It’s the color of her eyes; the color of the sea. In both you could drown, or find God himself. It’s the space between cities. Road signs & right turns, and the quiet determination to unravel in her arms. The sheets on her bed at 3am, where she whispers “I love you” and you’ve never been so sure of anything. The breath you exhale after you kiss her; it’s the color of the blood pumping through your heart. The heart that she keeps beating. The heart that has her name written all over it. It’s the heaviness in anticipation. The insatiable desire for a minute, just one minute. It is not the opposite of passion, like once suggested. It is passion. It is the sound of whispers. Her breath on your neck, and shivers down your spine. The color that fills in the weeks until you see her again. But most importantly, it will always be the color of her eyes. And it is no coincidence they are the color of the sea.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Kasey Corbit · 1/17/14 9:21 AM)

I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.

And I will not be afraid
of your scars.

I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Lori · 11/22/13 9:00 AM)

Love this!

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: LittleOddMe · 11/17/13 7:16 AM)
My father was an enormous man
Who believed kindness and lack of size
Were nothing more than sissified
Signs of weakness. Narrow-minded,

His eyes were the worst kind
Of jury—deliberate, distant, hard.
No one could outshout him
Or make bigger fists. The few

Who tried got taken for bad,
Beat down, their bodies slammed.
I wanted to be just like him:
Big man, man of the house, king.

A plagiarist, hitting the things he hit,
I learned to use my hands watching him
Use his, pretending to slap mother
When he slapped mother.

He was sick. A diabetic slept
Like a silent vowel inside his well-built,
Muscular, dark body. Hard as all that
With similar weaknesses

—I discovered writing,
How words are parts of speech
With beats and breaths of their own.
Interjections like flams. Wham! Bam!

An heir to the rhythm
And tension beneath the beatings,
My first attempts were filled with noise,
Wild solos, violent uncontrollable blows.

The page tightened like a drum
Resisting the clockwise twisting
Of a handheld chrome key,
The noisy banging and tuning of growth.
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 1 (Last: Slaz · 11/5/13 5:43 AM)
I wanted to tell the veterinary assistant about the cat video Jason sent me
But I resisted for fear she'd think it strange
I am very lonely
Yesterday my boyfriend called me, drunk again
And interspersed between ringing tears and clinginess
He screamed at me with a kind of bitterness
No other human had before to my ears
And told me that I was no good
Well maybe he didn't mean that
But that is what I heard
When he told me my life was not worthwhile
And my life's work the work of the elite.
I say I want to save the world but really
I want to write poems all day
I want to rise, write poems, go to sleep,
Write poems in my sleep
Make my dreams poems
Make my body a poem with beautiful clothes
I want my face to be a poem
I have just learned how to apply
Eyeliner to the corners of my eyes to make them appear wide
There is a romantic abandon in me always
I want to feel the dread for others
I can feel it through song
Only through song am I able to sum up so many words into a few
Like when he said I am no good
I am no good
Goodness is not the point anymore
Holding on to things
Now that's the point
 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0

When your face
appeared over my crumpled life
at first I understood
only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light
on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
I am so frightened, I am so frightened,
of the unexpected sunrise finishing,
of revelations
and tears and the excitement finishing.
I don't fight it, my love is this fear,
I nourish it who can nourish nothing,
love's slipshod watchman.
Fear hems me in.
I am conscious that these minutes are short
and that the colours in my eyes will vanish
when your face sets.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: Slaz · 9/21/13 3:29 AM)

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great,
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: LittleOddMe · 9/14/13 6:38 AM)

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours
and yours

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: LittleOddMe · 9/13/13 7:49 AM)

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them in not particular,
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private
and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute
These are private.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight
it goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures
Of whom, essentially, what did we know?

Brother of a brother? Friend of friends?
Lover of lover?

We who knew our fathers
in everything, in nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
The secret worlds are not regenerated.

And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0

On the battlefield of a woman’s body,

childbirth rages. The body

is always the loser. She says this one night

and puts her hand beneath her breast, its symmetry gone,

the nipple scorched brown.

 

Then she gets up

to turn the light off, and the body that takes the same way back

moves through darkness,

having surrendered the lithe perfection of sterility

to the heart, the enemy’s territory.   

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 0

Once, reading Josephus,

I found this description of Christ: he was a black man,

very nearly black,

tarred with the Palestinian sun

and shorter than most.

His hair was never cut. His nose beaked over,

farcically Jewish.

 

Hunchbacked

as well, a haversack

of gristle and meat

lugged about, pressing his spine down;

eyes tilting to the sand before him. Imagine that. Those

hefty wooden verbs

dragged out and thrown

before the listeners—

not sublime at all, not the easy construction of a man

nailed upright.

 

This was a lame Saviour,

glazed with sweat, heart pounding from the body’s haul

up to Calvary,

where his tall disciples

and the squat metal guards

had to bend back their necks to see him

hammered out straight at last. Ascending,

with all the pretty angels.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: LittleOddMe · 4/13/12 4:42 AM)

Still conscious of the others in the living room,

you snatch the pillow to your face,

muffle your voice

pearling and splashing

like an eel through water . . .

then the swimming sound of your breath

crisp and uncovered,

freestyle stroking slower, your whole body

supple as water.

Your breasts melt together, your legs

cross, as If the stretch the instant that is sliding away

with the ease of a wave across sand.

 

Voices in the hall. The bedlamp

shivers with footsteps, the light quakes,

slaps us back to the room, the slow

fishing boat snore from the baby at the end of the bed.

Every object is unfamiliar—

the books, wardrobe and drawers, all chosen

without us in mind,

stacked in the submarine darkness

like reefs. Even the sheets pulled over us

feel sharp as a ray sweeping over the ocean floor.

 

In the hall the lights go out.  

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: LittleOddMe · 1/1/12 10:08 AM)

Cana. The rooms basted with food,

steam hung like washing at the windows. Beggars

outside, wrapped in their skin

like rags.

 

The host buoyed across the noise

to him, almost sober with the question. No answer.

They watch him,

the empty cup

before him, watch his fingers on the clay.

 

He is lost now,

sees only the Baptist’s head

torn away—sinews and nerves

trailing from the neck like a bridal veil,

hair tufted with blood,

the slack lips

billowing blood.

And the empty eyes, rank as milk in the sun.

 

Long after the wine has come

and the young happy marrieds are twisting

on the bed,

he stays at the table,

fingers the empty cup, thinks of the water

cool and endless,

the Jordan’s sky and the voice so light on the wind.

 
 
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: Lori · 9/1/11 9:42 AM)
 
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