Poetry Friday and Open Thread

In a former life, I was an academic, an English teacher, and a poet. In order to try and re-connect with my roots, and in light of this weekend being the final breather before the big push, I thought I would try something a little off-beat tonight: a poetry open thread.

In the extended entry, I have posted the only poem of mine that I have saved on my laptop. If you have a poem you want to post, please do so. It doesn't even have to be your poem. Also, if you have a good poetry website or blog that you would like to share with others, please post that as well. I think one of the best poetry resources out there is Ubu Web.

If this is well received, I'll start holding these threads on a regular basis. If you have something else you would like to talk about besides poetry, feel free to do that as well.

The Sprinter's Running Shoes

For Jason Pattit

By Chris Bowers

May all of creation, all of the heavens and the earth, all of
       the living and the dead, take heed of the sprinter's
       running shoes,

may those who take heed sing joyous songs of praise,
       cantos and psalms reverberating through the air,

may those who take heed leap and dance before the stars,
       join hands, and together measure movement with their

may those who take heed fall to their knees in a prayer of
       gratitude, countless thousands praying in cities and
       forests across the continent,

may those who take heed be blessed so that the shoes may
       be blessed in turn,

blessed as a sign of goodness, a sign of presence, a sign of
       peace, a sign of joy,

blessed with a countenance that protects them from harm,

blessed with a light that endows them with beauty,

bless them with a grace that imbues them with speed,

a speed that fills the laces, blackened, caked in dirt, covered
       in dust, cut short and tied twice so that I cannot fall,

a speed that fills the heels, crinkled and covered by tape,
       quickly changing their shape to the shape of my feet,

a speed that fills the soles, worn smooth by years of
       training, space by blue ink notes left to me by my

a speed that fills the whole shoe and lifts me off the track,

lifts me as my arms and legs fill with sugar and with blood
       in the last fifty meters of a race,

a race of one hundred, two hundred or four hundred meters
       on a track of rubber and paint or cinders and chalk,

a track spreading gravel over my calf, first spattering the
       hair on my legs and the bends of my knees as I
       straighten my body coming off a turn

moving so as to bring a grace to my loneliness, the flowing
       space of my solitude filling the smallness of my world
       with beauty,

a world that, in its smallness, affects the infinity of the
       world around it,

a world that has borne witness to my speed, a speed that is
       blessed and that will bless me in turn,

bless me as I come quick and low out of starting blocks,
       almost stumbling, lunging forward into the air,

bless me as I hold my form on the back straight, seconds
       and strides before all oxygen leaves my body,

bless me as I lean and lean look to my side the entire race,
       my muscles loosening and starting to fail as I reach the
       finish line,

my head pulsing and unable to think as I wait for my time
       at the end of a race,

gasping, bent-over and ecstatic as I have so often waited for
       my time after races

on tracks in meets at colleges and high schools throughout
       Upstate New York

in cities and boroughs named Hamilton and Canandaigua,
       Binghamton and Chenango Bridge in the Appellation

Lake Placid, in the green hills of the Adirondacks, the
       oldest mountain range in the world,

where my family twice vacationed when I was young, site
       of the first time my father ever took me fishing,

Baldwinsville, north of Syracuse, flat and empty, its roads a
       drag strip for races to cross-country practice

with both me and my training partner, Jason Pattit,
       crammed into the back seat of Lee Mobley's

its power blue frame shaking as the speedometer surpassed
       eighty-five somewhere on 690 West

as we drove toward Van Buren Park or Beaver Lake, the
       central New York autumn passing us in a blur of
       yellow, orange and red

and the same gray sky, yearlong gift of the Great Lakes,
       covering the entire region

and bringing the same warm showers everywhere
       throughout April, May and June,

showers bringing rain to press my jersey against my skin,
       the slight outline of my chest revealed in full,

showers bringing rain to fall over the kaleidoscope of
       school uniforms at a track meet

where all colors cover the track, flow over the infield and
       the bleachers

in pools of blue and yellow, of gray and red and brown
       where teams set up camps

in piles and in circles of raincoats, duffel bags, sweatpants
       and radios,

in groups of runners listening to walkmans, telling jokes,
       eating rice cakes, eating candy bars,

playing cards and trying not to think about running until a
       few minutes before the race

the way I stared at patterns in the tiled floor of the waiting
       room during my father's surgery,

silent and looking down, my running shoes mixing together
       with the host of shapes on the floor,

elaborate pyramids, smaller squares moving into larger
       squares, dark rectangles rotating at all angles in my

the way my father's cancer built upon itself, cells
       reproducing toward infinity near his colon

even as my mother sat next to me in the waiting room, her
       legs crossed, one hand pressed against her face and
       almost covering her mouth

and the occasional sob escaping her body sounding like the
       call of a dying bird

in the suburban trees next to the track and the football field
       at Liverpool High School

where, as a sophomore, I ran the best race of my life in the
       league championship meet,

making the final in the one hundred meter dash, lowering
       my personal best by four tenths of a second

and beating Aaron Davis, the eventual champion, to the
       first step out of the blocks

and being so stunned I was in front that I slowed long
       enough for him to pass me in a rush of short quick
       breaths and warm spring air

serving as the genesis of a story I would tell Jason for years

at first while running during cross-country practice in the
       summer and fall, sweat falling through the shortness
       of our hair

and beading over our eyebrows and into our eyes, a late
       summer breeze pressing the dirt in our drying sweat
       against our skin,

then later when we would run in the winter, the track
       uncleared and unusable because of snow

so instead running our repetitions on a nearby footpath,
       sliding ten to twenty yards after each interval on the
       cleared ice like children at a bus stop

and causing the red and purple blisters on the underside of
       my toes to burst, silently spreading blood over the inside
       of my shoes

just as Jason had silently spread blood over the top of his
       shoes in a bathroom stall in the boy's locker room
       after practice,

only surviving because he had, unknowingly, cut the wrong
       side of his wrist open

and sat there wondering why more blood had not come out
       until, after a few minutes,

he left the stall, threw the razor away, cleaned himself up
       and walked home

only telling me the story years later as we were running on
       an early summer afternoon,

sweat and heat not yet upon us, mosquitoes still biding their
       time before nightfall,

only a few more words to be exchanged and then silence,

only the birds and then silence as we ran through Long
       Branch Park on an early summer afternoon,

sprinting the hills both up and down, jogging a sprinter's
       jog in the open spaces, waiting for the remainder of
       oxygen to escape our bodies

and then to live off sugar and blood, our bodies moving
       quickly and silently through the paths of the forest,

pine needles muffling the sound of our steps as we moved
       through the forest both perfect and unnoticed

and as, thousands of miles away, the waves of an unseen
       ocean crashed silently over thousands of slowly
       eroding shores.

Tags: Culture, Open Threads (all tags)



Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

How about some low-level doggerel with a political slant?

by DavidD 2006-09-01 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Oh yeah! Thank you for changing things up this weekend, Chris. I had no idea about your past life. I am a writer, too, and performer and much of my work and advocacy are politcally-oriented (or charged, as a call to action).

Here are my sites for people to visit and find out more:
ReallyBIGShow - Used to host a weekly open mic in Santa Monica, CA, 39 podcasts, videos and PDF publications
AdamBresson.org - My personal blog with writing and performance, hopefully running for office some day!
ActionDemocrats.org - My political writings and projects

And here's a poem I wrote a week after the 2004 election:
Thank you, Mother, for the bloody half
And the torn-apart majesty of our country rended by internal forces combusting
Our false idols elevated on TV screens in 2-dimensional dementia, slack lip & stupid grin
Starving good souls of their compassion, desire to live & belief in freedom
Sell-out culture of Promise Keepers who beat their wives senseless in private
In the middle of the country, not bi-coastal, not bi- anything & certainly afraid of the OTHER
A no-flyover zone walled-off by WalMarts open all night for your bargain shopping needs
Cheap goods made overseas by tiny hearts slaving for your discount underwear & garden tools
Red state, red meat, red eyes like the devil who speaks louder to be heard
And thank you, Mother, for none of the OTHER on TV or in the churches
They are left to the margins, hiding in bushes & cradling their lover when there's nothing left

Imagine your two sons in the desert huddling in the sand & picking up dinars for souvenirs
Reloading their guns & cocking them behind a makeshift bunker
Throwing dead rounds onto the ground & covering over them by kicking sand
Used to the smell of dry rot, the kind of death the desert makes more than heroes
And in the mash & mangle of friendly fire, bodies with parts removed cluttering the ground
We become friends with the other soldiers in that uncomfortable way you do on an airplane
When you know you may never see them again & don't care to know their last name even
Except it's always Colonel Something when you read the list of people whose last names you didn't ask
God save us now, Mother, alone out here separated by time zones & vacuum space
Not even a phone call away on a crackling line, we used to play so well together as kids
And had so much hope before now, right this moment when I watched my brother die in this dream
Legs blown up through his torso by a hidden explosive that looked like the same endless sand
I grabbed him in my arms, Mother, & looked right into his eyes & told him not to talk
Never to talk again, forced into silence & to die in another country for our country
Thank you, Mother, for this nightmare because in my dream there isn't any white or blue in the desert
And you have me seeing red, red states, red eyes, red skin

Are you happy with your God everywhere?
Celebrating him in TV, books & movies is the advertising trifecta
Drowning out the intellectuals with their silly theories on evolution, theocracy & the end of society
Mother, you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering out loud
Can you keep the ghosts of the past away? The far past? You seem to think you're past that now
But godless children are everywhere, on the sidewalks, in the parks, in the sewers
Reminding you how you used to smoke pot with your girlfriend on the maroon wood deck
Late night in Philadelphia while me & my brother slept soundly upstairs
And the humid air clung stickier than sweat to the sleeveless clothes & khaki shorts
But I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from the fever dreams &
Creep to the window to see the two of you cradling bottles of beer in the reflected kitchen light
Sipping from one & then sucking the smoke into your lungs ending like a firefly at the tip
And your laughter grew louder, many hours later your friend would crash out in the guest room
I'd strain to listen out the window to floating up fragments of conversation, talking about nothing
You wouldn't pray before you went to sleep, forgetting even to brush your teeth
Mixing up religious symbols way back in your head from your childhood, less remembering
I'd duck back into bed & hid under the covers, Scott & me content to sleep through to morning
When you would wakeup early because of your thin sleep & beating headache
Fix us breakfast & I would smile at your hangover & see your friend's jacket in the hallway on the hook
When you started to ask us to say a prayer before eating, years later at a dinner table already cold
You had me seeing red, Mother

Blood is cheap to poor people in the middle of big cities
It splatters on the ground, mixing in the puddles of rain & piss
It stains carpet the worse, Mother, & requires so much effort to remove its grasp
Four million new people in poverty & you with your brand new house & jacuzzi
Bread, milk, butter then bread, milk then bread & water
Let me tell you, Mother, where you live & work how many homeless people ask you for change?
When I pass by them I try to read their entire life in the moment I look them right in the eyes
Today I watched a brand new mother nurse her baby on a park bench in Los Angeles
Cradling the newborn's head in her palm, simulating the motion of sucking
Other hand pulls the body closer to share her warmth & the expression on her face
It changes while I watch & she stares at her baby's face trying to see herself in their eyes
From happiness to contentment to sadness & she says something to the baby
Something I can't hear but I try my best from across the street to read her lips
And I will ask you the same question, Mother, what future?
Then a man passes on his cellphone, reaches in his pocket & throws some change on the ground
In front of the mother who's crying now & she grabs her car keys out of her pocket
Wipes the body-temperature milk from the porcelain edges of her baby's lips
And gives the finger to the man as she kicks his change out into the street
Her eyes must have turned red, Mother

When my brother & I were younger, we used to play so well together
We used to love your friends & laugh at their jokes & every new guy who came around
We used to ask him what kind of car he drove, if he had any kids & if he liked movies
But I'm seeing red over this reality & I'm covered with blood, Mother
Half my body wanting to shout & half my body wanting to fight
Upset that America looks disgusting & gross, that we've given in to the 22%
Our sense of greatness & would God bless an America like the one you've left me?
I believe when I'm sitting next to your hospital bed & you can't talk
About the past & about the ghosts & the way you used to laugh
I will think about how bad I am at goodbyes & how I've already said goodbye, Mother
To my America: goodbye without a salute, goodbye without God & goodbye without humanity
©Adam Bresson

by heyadam 2006-09-01 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

That is a beautiful poem. I'm glad you saved it and shared. I grew up in upstate NY. I could feel the days being relived in my mind as you described them inside your poem. As a poet, I suppose that's the desired effect.

Your very good.  You should keep writing poetry when the mood strikes.

by emerald city 2006-09-01 01:11PM | 0 recs
Stanley and the 2 Hornworms

Both of these poems are by Stanley Kunitz, an American poet who passed away earlier this year. As we sit between summer and autumn, perhaps these two are most appropriate together...

Hornworm: Summer Reverie

Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon.
See me put on that look
of slow and fierce surprise
when I lift my bulbous head
and glare at an intruder.
Nobody seems to guess
how gentle I really am,
content most of the time
simply to disappear
by melting into the scenery.
Smooth and fatty and long,
with seven white stripes
painted on either side
and a sharp little horn for a tail,
I lie stretched out on a leaf,
pale green on my bed of green,
munching, munching.

Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation

       Since that first morning when I crawled
        into the world, a naked grubby thing,
        and found the world unkind,
        my dearest faith has been that this
        is but a trial: I shall be changed.
        In my imaginings I have already spent
        my brooding winter underground,
        unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
        into the air, free as a puff of cloud
        to sail over the steaming fields,
        alighting anywhere I pleased,
        thrusting into deep tubular flowers.

       It is not so: there may be nectar
        in those cups, but not for me.
        All day, all night, I carry on my back
        embedded in my flesh, two rows
        of little white cocoons,
        so neatly stacked
        they look like eggs in a crate.
        And I am eaten half away.

       If I can gather strength enough
        I'll try to burrow under a stone
        and spin myself a purse
        in which to sleep away the cold;
        though when the sun kisses the earth
        again, I know I won't be there.
        Instead, out of my chrysalis
        will break, like robbers from a tomb,
        a swarm of parasitic flies,
        leaving my wasted husk behind.

       Sir, you with the red snippers
        in your hand, hovering over me,
        casting your shadow, I greet you,
        whether you come as an angel of death
        or of mercy. But tell me,
        before you choose to slice me in two:
        Who can understand the ways
        of the Great Worm in the Sky?

by Jill Tubman 2006-09-01 01:11PM | 0 recs
slogan haiku
Hold them to account
Together we can do more
Iraq, Iraq, Iraq
by Bob Brigham 2006-09-01 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

This is the only poem I've written.

There once was a country so fine
I was proud to say it was mine
some bad people took power
and wish we would cower
but that's where we draw the line

We have an awful veep
whose rule over us aint cheap
we found he's a shooter
that drove buddy scooter
right into the garbage heap

We're also stuck with a king
that thought he'd give ruling a fling
it turns out he's awful
and also unlawful
and he can't comprehend a thing

Boy George lost an American city
the sight was ugly not pretty
with his general disdain
he might do it again
for the people he does not pity

The masses are tired of lies
up top they don't hear our cries
we found we were foolish
to elect the ghoulish
and now must forsake these guys

So what are the people to do
they're in a bit of a stew
people are starting to wake
to a government on the take
and must elect a new crew

So... we wait for the protest song
that's finally coming along
who had the courage and sung
we find it was pink and Neil Young
they'll try to write ways we've gone wrong

The world nervously awaits our decision
that we'll make with utter precision
to throw the bums out
it may be a rout
which will raise our profile a smidgen

by emerald city 2006-09-01 01:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread


This post encouraged me to finally officially join. I've been reading MyDD for 2 years now and I have to say, you and your cadre are doing good, (dare I say God's,) work. Keep it up!

About the poetry, I found parts of it whimsical like Ginsburg, yet relevetory and profound like Whitman. You've certainly captured the cadence of ol' Greybeard. It is in a word, brilliant. Thank you for sharing it.

Below is a simple love poem I wrote right after I met the man I now call my husband. I hope you enjoy it.

In London's Square

Autumn's colorfast rain
Is falling from her hosts
In sheets of red, gold and
I am much like that oaken hardwood.
My roots crushing granite into loam.
Shedding spent spring after spent
Long dormant, my heart had cooled.
Molten mantle too far from Pele's Eternal
Hardened into black glassy
I sense you more than see you.
Faintly aware of the weight of your note.
Your beauty is
Your smile makes liquid my obsidian
My mind whirls,
Like leaves whipped in the gust of a passing
My care worn armor,
Burnished by the blood of past battles,
Lost causes all,
Falls heavy off my shoulders
Like a moonless
By the shores of my native bay,
In London's Square,
I am
By his oyster beds,
Near his shoals,
I have foundered.
Wrecked upon flaxen hair and sea blue
Reefed by your song of Sirena, I
Sinking inexorably
Into an ocean abyss that
Is our

by gatorres69 2006-09-01 01:39PM | 0 recs
Heron in snow

I see the heron flying in the snow
I remember where
But when?
The years slide like shuffled cards
Rearranged by memory.

We drive by the stream
That runs beside the turnpike
Often, so often,
And I always remember the heron
In the surprising snow

But when, and what company
I kept then?
All else is gone but the image
Returning and returning
As I pass by.

by bloomingpol 2006-09-01 02:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Heron in snow

this was lovely, thank you.  You have reminded me of a drive along the coast, an amazed cycler in front of me on the road startled a massive golden eagle from the tree.  The eagle flew across the road, and for a moment his wide wings dwarfed the frightened man.  I think of that rare moment every time I drive past that site, "there's where the eagle was".  

by Shrink in SF 2006-09-01 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

No poetry quoted right now, just a recommendation. If any of you have never read Bei Dao, I encourage you to immediately. He's Chinese-in-exile, and his poetry captures the space where we all live better than any poet I've ever seen. It's political in the deepest sense of the term.

His poetry inhabits that place where our internal selves collide with the outside world's pressures and definitions. It's awe-inspiring work, really. And I mean that literally; I feel awe when I read his poetry, the "stillness of the soul" Hawthorne desribed feeling when he read Moby Dick.

The translation I read was by David Hinton, I think, a guy I've met a couple of times who does wonderful Chinese translations ...

by BriVT 2006-09-01 03:00PM | 0 recs
More Bei Dao

I just have to go on a bit ... so much of poetry, even really excellent poetry, is inward focused, looking at the deeply personal. The best poetry uses that to say something more universal (or rejects the idea of universal in interesting ways ... but that's another story), but that's not what I'm saying about Bei Dao. His poetry straddles the line of inward and outward focus; he manages to capture the indefinable, almost ineffable boundary between ourselves and others that is our true earthly selves, the place where our own inner lives constantly interact with our outside circumstances to change us and mold us.

Damn, now I have to go read some again ...

by BriVT 2006-09-01 03:08PM | 0 recs
Epitaphs on an administration

I put these on tombstones in my yard on a hopeful halloween two years ago, they still make me smile wistfully.  In the spirit of Caliv Trillin

Epitaphs for This Administration

    George W. Bush

Wisdom and strength, you have neither
From politics you need a breather
In 2000 you cheated
Your Nation defeated
We didn't elect you then either.

    John Ashcroft

Ashcroft, the bravest of men, he
Could whittle the freedoms of any
"I've lain awake nights
with that damned Bill-of-Rights
But I'm still worried we have too MANY!!!"

    Dick Cheney

Defense-spending contracts are share-pickin'
To question them is unAmerican
He adds a new kick
To the name "Tricky Dick"
And I'm sure we don't want to go THERE again!

    Donald Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld believed that Defense
Should leave every nation more tense
He sent men to battle
And killed them like cattle
And nobody's liked him much since.

    Condaleeza Rice

Although she's been wrong once or twice
The president trusts her advice
The coward does try
To keep her near by
But we're all sick of "chicken" and Rice.

    Karl Rove

Lurking behind each disaster
The "mind" is found serving the "master"
Plotting and scheming
Of power he's dreaming
Karl Rove, like Iago, but faster.

   Colin Powell

He sought the U.N. and was caught there
Blaming Powell for Iraq is just not fair
We know he was "duped"
And "outta-the-looped"
We hated him last; but we GOT there.

LOVE the new edition, hope it stays.

by Shrink in SF 2006-09-01 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Or what about a stefnal slant, DavidD?

(with apologies to the host of the thread)

I do not think I shall ever see
A quatrain that is only three
Lines long and doesn't rhyme or scan.

--Joe Haldeman

by InigoMontoya 2006-09-01 04:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread


Joe Haldeman actually writes a lot of poetry, or at least he often mentions that he's working on a poem in one of the standard forms.

Doggerel is a lot more fun for me.  But now you have me thinking in terms of doggerel science fiction.  Hmm.

by DavidD 2006-09-01 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Yeah, DavidD.  For I believe that both you and I commented in Joe's thread when he was working on a sestina.  But I also am not left-handed.

by InigoMontoya 2006-09-01 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread


by: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

ILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

by FlorasMom 2006-09-01 04:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

On museum walls (me)

There once was a time when I could see forever,
When I roamed the grasslands of my youth--
A shephard standing on the horizon
Gazing out at landscapes without end.
No frames could contain their proportions.
No contour lines led the eyes towards artificial depth.
Just multiple points,
Each with its own perspective,
In a vast and immeasurable expanse.
Horses once galloped in these wilds.

And then one day came a warrior
With a lasso twirling in his hand.
He rounded up the horses.
He put borders around the edge.
He tamed his environment
And installed those all-too-familiar lines.
The shephard who once peered out into infinity
Is now a figure in a painting on museum walls.
Occasionally a passerby comes along
And recognizes what the shephard saw.

by Panhu 2006-09-01 04:58PM | 0 recs
Golden Oldie from Willie Yeats

I can't think of a poem that more aptly matches the 2006 moment in political history than W. B. Yeats' great lyric anticipating the turning of the historical wheel:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the  desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

by Thresholder 2006-09-01 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Here's one I wrote a few weeks ago:

I am so sorry dear

I almost puked in the car yesterday--

I heard Dr. Rice say "It is time for a new Middle East," and I didn't know what else to do

It was that or cry, and

I know I didn't cry on our wedding day--

 it was so dark and heavy that day,
  but the rain was gentle
  and that night we began our lives together with hope
  (and a bit of beer)

This is so different - something is coming and I don't know what
     oh christ oh jesus christ
     something is coming

    oh jesus christ
     pray for us

You hate it when I cry, but you never broke,
you never broke my heart

Yeh, I used to be a poet too...

by pastordan 2006-09-01 06:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Bush sucks
by global yokel 2006-09-01 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Thanks.  A needed change.

Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  Bush Sucks.  But he ain't running again either.  We need something new.

I was never a poet (see above) but there was a time when I was more into poetry than politics, in the 1990's.  That time was a luxery and I yearn for it again.  One of the best political strategists ever was Allen Ginsberg.  Poor Allen.  He would have loved blogs so much.  I miss him but the poems above are so good, some of them.

by howardpark 2006-09-01 07:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Funny guys. How about:

There was a man from Nantucket.

by misscee 2006-09-02 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

I like this idea! Here's a cute little parable from our new poet laureate, Donald Hall.

We Bring Democracy to the Fish

It is unacceptable that fish prey on each other.
For their comfort and safety, we will liberate them
into fishfarms with secure, durable boundaries
that exclude predators. Our care will provide
for their liberty, health, happiness, and nutrition.
Of course all creatures need to feel useful.
At maturity the fish will discover their purposes.

from White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Selected Poems 1946 - 2006, Donald Hall

by shermandem 2006-09-01 08:18PM | 0 recs
The same arts that doth a power gain

...Must it maintain.

by stevehigh 2006-09-01 08:22PM | 0 recs
Okay, okay

I meant, The same arts that did gain/A pow'r, must it maintain.

--Andrew Marvell, "An Horatian Ode on Cromwell's Return from Ireland."

It's why you don't pull Lieberman-ish stunts screwing with the caucus. No Democrat can get any work done walking around with one hand over his asshole; we have to be able to trust one another on the basics, like none of us is going to vote for Frist for Majority Leader.

And speaking of elevated language and literature, the next time people tell you that Bush Jr is reminiscent of Prince Hal, tell them they've got the right play but the wrong guy.

Bush is Pistol, braggart, coward, looter:

Let us to Iraq*; like horse-leeches, my boys,

To suck, to suck, the very blood to suck!

--Henry V, Act II, Scene III

*Oh, it was France, not Iraq? Memory like a sieve.

by stevehigh 2006-09-01 08:47PM | 0 recs
Time Carried Them Back

Way Back When

My parents looked Dean in the eye
Cornered him after I ran away the second time
Now, when they could no longer bring me back
with guilt
or the hope of salvation
"Tell us where she is.
You're 18 now
and we could put you in jail."

Dean squirmed
where they had him standing
and I didn't know about the blackmail
Infuriated by my handcuffs and the back of the squad car
I looked at him with every ounce of hate I had

And I left them all for good the next time

Just Last Year

Jason said, "No,
we shouldn't do that.
Not until
we're in our 50s,
or maybe 60s."
And I paused as it hit me
Time had carried us apart

There's nothing for it now
but to split our DVD collection
To leave his furniture behind
when I move to school

Grandma Kat tells me
"When one door closes,
another opens."
It's cliché, but
she listens to me cry
and makes me believe
that it will all work out

I didn't meet her until I was 20
is the term for us,
our family,
one generation from another
Now for the first time
we feel related

New Town

The sky is blue, blue, blue here
when it isn't cloudy
Blue like the movies and stories
Not murky like the sky Back East
A silty pond waiting
to be stirred by thunder storms
that ache to pry back the roof and come in
Not big like the Montana sky
That monument dome
held up by cloud mountains
that loom as if they could crush you
like a frog on the highway
Not a flat sheet of mirage water
like the desert sky over California

The Northwest sky
hangs low on the trees
Peering down through evergreen boughs,
a canopy of lushly colored tissue

And I would write about it
if the years had not leached the songs away,
down the drains of parking lots
Squirreled them off
through office cubicles
Far and gone
with all the pennies
safety pins
and discarded hobbies

Winter Holiday

I got an email from Dean
right out of the ether,
where everything vanishes from sight
and the sense of presence
We talk on the phone,
joking like we were never away,
recriminations lost and done with
I guess I could visit
on the way to see Kat for Christmas
And maybe,
maybe Mom and Dad,
my sisters,
perhaps they'd like to have a family dinner
It's been a very long time,
after all

After Dinner

Dean, it was great
seeing them again, and my sisters
weren't all spines and sarcasm like before
We laughed together at the table,
spent half an hour at raucous truffle splitting
to share around the dessert,
Grandma Agatha's gift of chocolates
And in cleaning up,
showing me the remodeling
my sisters and I cried on each other's shoulders
for the years of lost company
and things said in anger
My mother told me,
"It isn't that I don't love you,
but that I'm selfish and I want you with me
for eternity.
In God's kingdom."
I don't believe anymore today
than when I left,
but it was easy,
and so true
to tell her that it was
the most loving thing anyone had ever said to me
And she gave me a watery smile,
held me close like she used to.

"I'm glad," he said.
"I'm happy for you,
I know how hard these years must have been."
And we kissed each other there on the couch
as if we could burn each other to charcoal crumbs,
our bodies turning to serpents
in each other's hands

Her Disclosure To Him

The bubble took my good job
and I have new student loans
at 30
Plastic furniture
Bad knees
I feel like a teenager again
Except I have a car
and better skin
I might travel or take off suddenly
For politics
for work or a conference
and it would just have to be all right

His Disclosure To Her

"I'm a grease monkey;
crude and offensive.
I never went to college,
though I could probably find work anywhere,
and don't talk formal
like you've done since I knew you in high school.
Even when you're making fun
or swearing.
I hate cold weather and rain;
it's so boring staying in.
I like to listen to you and
like that you care, but
I don't follow politics,
these things you talk about."


"What are you wearing?"
And I say
2 pairs of socks, long underwear, jeans, a sweater ...
"You're no fun."
And I reply
I thought we had discussed this already
how I'm no fun
"Yes, yes we did."

And the next day
he emails the weather report
from his Los Angeles suburb
where it's 78º Fahrenheit
In January
Tease, I call him later
He asks,
"So what are you wearing right now?"
And I say it's warmer today, so
a pair of socks, jeans ...
"Only one pair of socks?
Ooh, baby!"

But seriously, do we know
what we're doing here?

"No. We'll just have to let time do its work."

Goodbye, Mrs. Kat

I'm driving when I get the call,
pull over before I become a hazard,
break down for half an hour at the nearest offramp

I give my sister the news
from the visitors' lot at Fort Lewis
because she's the one I was asked to tell
Mom couldn't hear my weekly reports anymore
as the tumor stole her mother's breath
There was no last call,
no dramatic reconciliation
before she realized that even to the bitter end,
40 years of silence would not be healed

I get back on the freeway
to Jordan's house
because I promised a morning ride to the airport
It isn't any trouble,
it isn't like I want to be alone tonight
And Jordan says,
"I hope she's at peace."
And I say, I don't
She was at peace in her retirement community
with its gates and guards,
with its `no one under 55 for more than 2 months' policy,
in a quiet house with my Aunt and Uncle and her husband of 50 years
She was at peace with trips to the store,
the post office and the occasional cruise

She was bored too,
lonely for friends long passed
or lost in the fog of age
She was horrified
by this fast, new world
and the wild images it threw before her
Remembering the golden times
of youth
Forgetting near starving
during the Depression
Forgetting how there was no help
when her husband left her with 3 children
after the War
She remembered the golden times
that might never have been,
because it seemed she felt passed by and worn out,
as if there were no place for her anymore
in this machine landscape

Not that I blame her for that,
because sometimes I feel the same way
I have already had jobs that didn't exist when I was born
Jobs with a brief flash of prestige and importance,
but now made of such commonplace tasks
that they no longer have their own title
If I were that much older,
if all the artists I enjoyed had stopped singing
and all the actors I liked had passed away,
if my childhood memories sounded like fiction
to all the new people,
it would be harder to take enough comfort from the world
to make up for its sharpness

So I hope that wherever she is,
she isn't at peace
I hope she's getting ready for a grand adventure
That she'll get to do the things she encouraged me to do,
to feel out a place for herself
that offers a hope of meaning again

"Go do what you want
and don't let anyone stop you,"
she told me
Just the weekend before she died
"Go on with your studies
and the bright future you have.
I'm proud of you
and I love you."
So you can see
what kind of life she wanted for me
and what her hopes were;
that I would sing out
in whatever key I pleased,
not have her regrets,
her chains
So I wish for her to have those chances, too
If such things are possible,
and you never know

Next Weekend

I already have the tickets to visit,
a week and a day late,
though the doctors said there were still a few months left
Reprising the holiday circuit of visitation
through familiar territory
made a bit more empty
One fewer of the people I belong to
with our quirks, compulsions,
long complaints and shared jokes

But I won't be seeing Dean
He wrote,
"My life is all here and it hurts that you're so far away.
Maybe it's worse to be apart
than to be alone.
I was fooling myself."
Yeah, well,
I thought that was probably the way this would go

Because love isn't enough,
not in real life
It isn't enough to hold people together,
to provide a happy ending
from the moment you declare your feelings
Other things have to work;
like geography, age and faith
At the most,
love can sometimes call someone back,
though not always
or maybe not for long
At the least,
it can feel like the power to reach someone far off
with the right distress call,
which sometimes tries to come out in words,
or songs, or undignified sobbing

When I open my mouth to scream
but no sound comes out,
that's love denied,
turning me from bedrock into sand
Turning hope against me
Pulling me into tides of thought
so private
they can only be shared with strangers

Skipping Class

I didn't mean to,
just forgot it was a field trip today
Which is probably for the best
Couldn't imagine being trapped on a bus right now,
or pretending to listen to a tour

The rightness of this lapse hits me
as I freeze still, 100 yards from the car,
whoever heard of someone too sad to walk
I feel the tears coming,
like when you know you're going to be sick
and the only thing to do is wait
One foot after another, until I get to the grass divide
It's blurry now and so I stop again,
trying to focus on the lichens washed down by February rainstorms
in their riot of frost green, lime, black and orange

Once the first surface tension is broken,
the tears just pour down instead of crowding my eyes,
so I can drive home fine

Mom, could you talk to me for a while
Just say something,
whatever's on your mind
"Sure, honey."

by Natasha Chart 2006-09-01 08:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Pleased to find the limerick format among the entries, I give you my favorite from Poet Laureate W. H. Auden:

As the poets have mournfully sung,
Death takes the innocent young;
The rolling-in-money,
The screamingly funny,
And those who are very well hung.  

by GreatEarthMother 2006-09-01 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Oh, I LOVE poetry threads.

Someone mentioned Stanley Kunitz. Here's my favorite piece from him.
.."My dear, is it too late for peace, too late
For men to gather at the wells to drink
The sweet water; too late for fellowship
And laughter at the forge; too late for us
To say, "Let us be good to one another"?
The lamps go singly out; the valley sleeps;
I tend the last light shining on the farms
And keep for you the thought of love alive,
As scholars dungeoned in an ignorant age
Tended the embers of the Trojan fire.
Cities shall suffer siege and some shall fall,
But man's not taken. What the deep heart means,
Its message of the big, round, childish hand,
Its wonder, its simple lonely cry,
The bloodied envelope addressed to you,
Is history, that wide and mortal pang."

--Stanley Kunitz, from Night Letter

by rondea 2006-09-02 04:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

This is from Hugh Cook.

The Death of Achilles

Turning on the blade of the sun
He feels no pain.
He counts it all as illusion.
Existence was a cobweb's whisper.
And now he is nothing, and knows it,
The sky
Darkening to extinction as he falls.
On his knees he is an avalanche still falling,
But is dead by the time
He bucks to the earth and rolls.
The echo of his cry
Lives half a moment after Achilles.
Then there is war, but not his war,
Though there are still clouds, and there is still smoke,
And there are still fish in the silver sea-
And the wind blows wide across
Palm trees
Coral islands
Enameled deserts ....
Somewhere, the shell of a turtle lies
Half-buried in the driftwood of the sun...

-Hugh Cook

by rondea 2006-09-02 04:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Here's a bit of mine(I certainly don't think I belong in the company of those I'm posting).


Autumn burns and fills my eyes
in glowing splendour summer dies
the wind it whispers, moans and sighs
for aching sadness.. last goodbyes

Oh, blue sky and storm of flying leaves
paint box colours along the hills
bring winter chills to me

Winter you cold and patient beast
through the trees I hear you breathe
this heart of mine it doesn't need
your distant sun to light it's grief
for it's still broken, don't you see
and what it wants will never be..

by rondea 2006-09-02 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

And of course there's Alfred Lord Tennyson's

Tears, Idle Tears

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

--Alfred Lord Tennyson

by rondea 2006-09-02 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Last but certainly not least is the old master himself Bobby Dylan

Masters of War

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

-Bob Dylan

Thanks for the thread. That is all.

by rondea 2006-09-02 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

Night in the Desert

From the east
it rushes, an urgent flow that
whispers and chitters through valleys of sand,
over oceans of sand.
Incessantly, this cold sharp tide picks and places granular dust,
scours ripples and carves ribbons in the
stark blank flat,
sows the seeds of vast sand mountains that will with time
arise a thousand feet above the plain,
become monuments to ebb and flow, to subtlety and perseverance.  

And now this air, come some ten thousand miles,
is in my chest.

I hold it in,
a great wanton gulp;
I let it sit: cold, quiet, bound;
inert, after all that,
in my chest.

Yet not inert: down deep in my lungs  
its aridity and cold absorb my heat and damp,
cannot help but take the living warmth and moisture;
without thought or ceremony it consummates
an automatic entropic exchange of
substance of me
to itself.

I boom a great hollow HA! and
send it out to carry on its shaping way,
now to carry me
on the resonance of a laugh.

The laughter shows I know this dry desert wind will
not hold me long:
once freed this dry desert wind will use me, smear me, spread me wide,
grind me against the rough flat ground.

   *     *     *

I become the knife edge of wind:
I sculpt the land,
I sow the seeds.
Dilute but monumental,
I rush out and into the cold dry desert night.

by Marc in KS 2006-09-03 04:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Poetry Friday and Open Thread

This was great!  I'm sorry I was away this weekend and missed it; if it happens again I'll contribute some of my own poetry.

Chris -- I like it, it's got a slightly liturgical feel that fits the subject matter well.

by bruorton 2006-09-05 05:25AM | 0 recs


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