you are in a maze of words that have captured my soul in one way or another.
I write poetry; you may have read some of it already on other parts of this site. However, I'd like to share some poems that I really like; that have appeared in my plan file at one point or another, because they are either really beautiful or wonderful or have just struck me in one way or another. I am putting all of these here without permission of the authors, so please don't sue me; if anyone complains I'll just take this page down. I just really want to share what I consider to be some really fine works of poetry that aren't often covered in the conventional "literary canon".
Margaret Atwood, "It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers"
While I was building neat
castles in the sandbox,
the hasty pits were
filling with bulldozed corpses
and as I walked to the school
washed and combed, my feet
stepping on the cracks in the cement
detonated red bombs.
Now I am grownup
and literate, and I sit in my chair
as quietly as a fuse
and the jungles are flaming, the under-
brush is charged with soldiers,
the names on the difficult
maps go up in smoke.
I am the cause, I am a stockpile of chemical
toys, my body is a deadly gadget,
I reach out in love, my hands are guns,
my good intentions are completely lethal.
passive eyes transmute
everything I look at to the pocked
black and white of a war photo,
can I stop myself
It is dangerous to read newspapers.
Each time I hit a key
on my electric typewriter,
speaking of peaceful trees
another village explodes.
Richard Brautigan, "It's Raining in Love"
I don't know what it is,
but I distrust myself
when I start to like a girl
It makes me nervous.
I don't say the right things
or perhaps I start
what I am saying.
If I say, "Do you think it's going to rain?"
and she says, "I don't know,"
I start thinking: Does she really like me?
In other words
I get a little creepy.
A friend of mine once said,
"It's twenty times better to be friends
than it is to be in love with them."
I think he's right and besides,
it's raining somewhere, programming flowers
and keeping snails happy.
That's all taken care of.
if a girl likes me a lot
and starts getting real nervous
ans suddenly begins asking me funny questions
and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
and she says things like,
"Do you think it's going to rain?"
and I say, "It beats me,"
and she says, "Oh,"
and looks a little sad
at the clear blue California sky,
I think: Thank God, it's you, baby, this time
instead of me.
e.e. cummings, "i carry your heart"
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
e.e. cummings, "since feeling is first"
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death I think is no parenthesis
The Cure, "Untitled"
hopelessly drift in the eyes of the ghost again
down on my knees and my hands in the air again
pushing my face in the memory of you again
but i never know if it's real
never know how i wanted to feel
never quite said what i wanted to say to you
never quite managed the words to explain to you
never quite knew how to make them believable
and now the time has gone
another time undone
hopelessly fighting the devil futility
feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me
feeling him gnawing my heart away hungrily
i'll never lose this pain
never dream of you again
Richard Feynman -- from "What do you care what other people think?"
There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
yet forming white surf in unison.
Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.
Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.
Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves
and a new dance starts.
Growing in size and complexity
masses of atoms
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.
Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.
Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.
James Harms, "My Androgynous Years"
I had a crisis at the supermarket, yesterday.
I said to myself softly, so no one could hear,
I said, Your soul is not stepping
from your body. I said, Stop it, relax.
And I did. I held it all together
past the magazines and gum,
through 8-Items-or-Less and out the door.
I sat in my car and let mascara
run down my arms like greasy rain.
Until a woman in a Volvo beeped
and pointed at the asphalt under me,
unwilling, I guess, to wait any longer.
When I was eight my sister hated me.
She hated clothes and make-up.
She hated buckled shoes.
We'd walk Vermillion Street beneath
the insect sizzle of neon
to buy my mother cigarettes,
loiter like felons till
all seemed clear in Lee's Liquor-Mart.
I'd ask Peter Lee where the Cokes had gone
and he'd come around to help me look
while my sister snaked her hand to a packet
of Pall Malls and was gone. On the way home,
sometimes, she ran ahead, easy over long legs.
She'd find a crumbling vestibule
to soothe her shadow down to stone,
and time my slow arrival.
We'd sit near a puddle of ragwater
or piss, her laughter a hand against
my nect, and wait for my sobs to soften.
I share my lunch today with a boy from
Peru, Indiana. He recites King's
"I Have a Dream" speech
rising off the bench to shake his fists
at the assembled phantoms.
Pigeons scatter and regather, and all around us
haloes appear and vanish, the fountain mist
blown in rainbows and to pieces.
He is splendid and I offer all my Fritoes.
One night he will come to me like a dream
on the television, and announce
a special offer: laser-sharpened knives
or a three-record set.
But that's the future. For now
we hold hands and talk about the news,
which is much better than yesterday's
but only half as good as tomorrow's.
Jonathan Holden, "Falling From Stardom"
When only the human remains,
our two human faces licked clean
of disguises like two friends,
I understand what an ex-lover meant
when she said she was tired
of fucking celebrities,
how this star director
who confessed he'd grown bored
of practicing stunts
on one trapeze at a time
turned out in the end to be
no more than his assortment of methods.
The persuasion in his hands,
even the tropical weather moving
through his melancholy eyes,
seemed to her ulterior.
On the mattress with him
she was a mirror.
I have friends who are afraid
to say something trite.
Every rejoinder must top what was just said.
Their gossip's hilarious,
it's a compost of envies. They'll tell you
the sex habits of each president.
At 50, they would still live as we did
before we gave up counting
the nervous thrills in this world
and bore our children.
But their mouths are chameleon, their faces
want definition, are composites of all
out faces, and we
are the score which they cannot stop keeping.
When they lend us themselves
they use the word love.
They would finish with us
as with a piece of heavy equipment.
Their motion's a form of immunity.
Loneliness gives them freedom to move.
I wake with you, now, and for the first time
that I can remember
I envy nothing.
The morning's singular,
it will not refer.
Am I naive?
Is this some child's drawing?
There's a blue brook. On it, a boat.
One cloud. One bird. The sun
faithful, always righthanded,
scatters its sticks of lemony candy.
The boat only wants to be a boat,
the cloud a cloud,
the bird bird,
If the word love means anything
it must be like this --
how two sticks of sun that fall in the brook
can shine all morning, shine
beneath fame, the water descending
without demur, filling
one place at a time.
Jonathan Holden, "The Ordinary Deja Vu of a Rainy Morning"
It must be this way, too,
for the old men reading these pale
zeroes the rain keeps typing,
repeating perfectly in the pools--
the old men who have learned years ago
that weather is to be taken personally,
and who, though they are weary,
are today almost happy,
pleased with the way the rain
recites its adages,
something they had said once or written down,
as if the rain, by being so many,
as indefinite articles define a noun,
making possible a while longer
And it must be here, surely,
in the singular, witness again
to that bitter green lacework in the elms,
the gossip of grasses drinking
this raw drizzle, adding
the sum of the rain's digits,
that we practice our aging
like the young illicit lovers as they undress.
On the border of the old country
they remember, now, its climate--
the hot monotony--
that it has no nationality.
And they know all that the old men
coming awake this morning
among the dark used furniture of a room
that resembles their room
on a day that resembles a forlorn April day
could know of deja vu.
And they know where they are going
they will be anonymous again.
They know, already, how the mask
they draw on is common
as the masks on their children asleep,
the eyes lifted, birds
lost in the afternoon glare,
leaving the face empty,
a pure desertion.
Like the old men listening
to the rain's adages,
the forsythia lit all this dark morning,
they remember when they were plural.
Jonathan Holden, "Duststorm"
Here in this quiet room arrayed
with soft parallelograms of sun,
still dazed by your potent taste
of broken apples, I've come
to realize that even in silence
such as this, with the boughs
beyond my window nodding lazily,
the sunlight's edges eating
up the floor as the minutes
bristle, filling up the room
with the palpable activity of
nothing, it is always storming.
It's in the dust, this dust that
sparkles, restless in the sun.
There is desire in this dust
that cannot cry. There is desire
gathering even in the light,
speechless, frozen, a kind of
pain that makes the light,
the dust and I tremble together.
There is no shelter from this desire,
it's everywhere, this storm
that we are made of, this windless
storm I thought could spend
itself, that's closing in again.
Jonathan Holden, "Integrals"
Erect, arched in disdain,
the integrals drift from left
across white windless pages
to the right,
serene as swans.
beautiful seen from afar
on the wavering water, each
curves with the balanced severity
of a fine tool weighed in the palm.
Gaining energy now, they
break into a canter--stallions
bobbing the great crests of their manes.
No one suspects their power
who has not seen them rampage.
Like bulldozers, they build
dirt to dirt to stumps added
to boulders to broken glass added
to live trees by the roots added
to hillsides, to whole
that roll, foaming before them,
the tumbling end of a broken wave
in one mangled sum: dandelions, old
beer-cans and broken
rolled into one.
Yes, with the use of tables
integration is as easy as that:
the mere squeeze of a trigger, no
second thought. The swans
cannot feel the pain
it happens so fast.
Kenneth Koch, "Days and Nights" -- part 5
A B C D F I J
L M N R Y and Z were the friends I had who wrote poetry
Now A B and C are dead, L N and Y have stopped writing
Z has gotten better than ever and I am in a heavy mood
Wondering how much life and how much writing there should be--
For me, have the two become mostly the same?
Mostly! Thank God only mostly! Last night with you
I felt by that shaken and uplifted
In a way that no writing could ever do
The body is after all a mountain and words are a mist--
I love the mist. Heaven help me, I also love you.
When the life leaves the body life will still be in the words
But that will be a little and funny kind of life
Not including you on my lap
And looking at me then shading your beautiful eyes.
Do you want me to keep telling
You things about your
Poem or do you want me to stop? Oh
Tell me. What? I don't think
You should have that phrase "burn up" in the first line.
Why not? I don't know. It
Seems a little unlike the rest.
O wonderful silence of animals
It's among you that I best perhaps could write!
Yet one needs readers. Also other people to talk to
To be friends with and to love. To go about with. And
This takes time. And people make noise,
Talking, and playing the piano, and always running around.
Night falls on my desk. It's an unusual situation.
Usually I have stopped work by now. But this time I'm in the midst
of a thrilling evasion,
Something I promised I wouldn't do-- sneaking in a short poem
In the midst of my long one. Meanwhile you're patient, and the veal's cold.
Fresh spring evening breezes over the plates
We finish eating from and then go out.
Personal life is everything personal life is nothing
Sometimes--click--one just feels isolated from personal life
Of course it's not public life I'm comparing it to, that's nonsense vanity--
So what's personal life? the old mom-dad-replay joke or
Sex electricity's unlasting phenomenon? That's right. And on
This spring evening it seems sensational. Long may it be lasting!
It helps me to be writing it helps me to breathe
It helps me to say anything it gives me
I'm afraid more than I give it
I certainly have lost something
My writing makes me aware of it
It isn't life and it isn't youth
I'm still young enough and alive
It's what I wrote in my poems
That I've lost, the way Katherine would walk
As far as the tree line, and how the fruit tree blossoms
Would seem to poke their way into the window
Although they were a long way outside
Yes sex is a great thing I admire it
Sex is like poetry it makes you aware of your hands feet arms and legs
And your beating heart
I have never been inspired by sex, always by love
And so we talk about "sex" while thinking a little about poetry
There are very few poems
Compared to all the thought
And the activity and the sleeping and the falling in love
And out of love and the friendships
And all the talk and the doubts and the excitement
And the reputations and the philosophies
And the opinions about everything and the sensitivity
And the being alone a lot and having to be with others
A lot and the going to bed a lot and getting up a lot and seeing
And so on and thinking about oneself
In this somewhat peculiar way
Well, producing a lot, that's not what
Being a poet is about, said N.
But trying to do so is certainly one of the somethings
It is about, though the products I must say are most noumenous--
Wisps of smoke! while novels and painting clouds go belching over the way!
Poetry, however, lives forever.
Words-- how strange. It must be that in language
There is less competition
Than there is in regular life, where there are always
Beautiful persons being born and growing to adulthood
And ready to love. If great poems were as easy to create as people--
I mean if the capacity to do so were as widespread--
Since there's nothing easy about going through a pregnancy--
I suppose we could just forget about immortality. Maybe we can!
Z said It isn't poetry
And R said It's the greatest thing I ever read
And Y said I'm sick. I want to get up
Out of bed. Then we can talk about poetry
And L said There is some wine
With lunch, if you want some
And N (the bad poet) said
Listen to this. And J said I'm tired and
M said Why don't you go to sleep. We laughed
And the afternoon-evening ended
At the house in bella Firenze.
Kenneth Koch, "In Bed" (excerpts)
HAMMER AND NAILS IN BED
To make it better
They are making it a better bed
And a bigger bed, firmer and larger
And finer bed. So the hammer and nails in the bed
And the carpenter's finger
And thumb and his eyes and his shoulder.
Bang! Bang! Smap! The hammer and nails in bed.
SHEEP IN BED
The sheep got into the bed
OTHER POETRY BED
Shall I compare you to a summer's bed?
You are more beautiful.
FRIENDS IN BED
SIRENS IN BED
My face is plastered to the window
When the sirens come.
COURTSHIP IN BED
"Please. Tell me you like me."
"How did you get in this bed?"
WET DOG IN BED
There is nothing like a wet dog in bed.
In the dog bed
I cannot sleep.
PHILOSOPHY IN BED
Plato says this bed
Isn't the real one.
What did Plato know
Spinoza constructed a bed
Which was slept in by Alfred North Whitehead.
You say, "Let's go to bed"
But those words have no meaning.
LUNCH IN BED
It's late! Get up! The roseate fruit trees
Are blushing with the nape of new-frocked day!
Awake! The modern breeze of spring
Is pulsative through nest-caroming branches!
COWARDS IN BED
Afraid to turn over. Come on. Come on, turn over. Cowards in bed.
CHOPIN'S ETUDES IN BED
Here is the bed
Of Chopin's Etudes,
Over here is his Preludes' bed;
And here is the bed of his Mazurkas.
I'd wake up every morning
And look out the window across the park.
I was unable to tell you any reason
To get out of bed.
A BLUE AND WHITE BED
Becomes a yellow and gold one,
Then was green, pale green,
Then violet, then onyx,
Yes onyx, then it was an onyx bed.
BALCONIES IN BED
When you lean over
When you fall
When you speak
At Endebed I mett you
You go up on the lift, no, yes
Then we hearing from sounds of guitars
Americans strolling bingo hatrack in the lake.
ENEMIES IN BED
Enemies sleep in separate beds
But in the same part of the city.
I can't get to bed.
Show me the bed and I will show you how tto get to it.
INVITING SOMEONE FROM BED
Come, let me help you out of bed.
The sun is shining. The window is open. Look!
From the balcony there is the street, which is like a bed.
POST-MODERNISM IN BED
Kadinsky, Arp, Valery, Leger, and Marinetti
Are kicked out of bed.
Then, for a long time, nobody gets back into it.
The bear got into bed
With his claws.
To have it all at once, and make no decisions.
But that is a decision.
I AM SORRY I DIDN'T EXPECT TO FIND YOU IN BED
With me I must have misdialed the telephone oh
Wait a minute -- damn! I can't extricate
Myself from these sheets yes I'm getting up what
Did you expect after such a long night at the factory
Of unexplained phenomena with your head and shoulders
Beautiful as a telephone directory but please don't talk to me about love
I have an appointment with my head with the dead with a pheasant
With a song I'm nervous good-bye. It was the end of bed.
PHILOSOPHY OF BED
A man should be like a woman and a woman should be like an animal
In bed is one theory. Another is that they both should be like beds.
PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM IN BED
What are you trying to avoid talking about
When you talk about bed?
OWL IN BED
The owl flew into the bed
SNOW IN BED
Vanishing snowflakes, rooftops appearing
And sidewalks and people and cars as we get out of bed.
DISCOBOLUS IN BED
The discus thrower
Is still in bed.
Moody Blues (Graeme Edge), "The Day Begins/Late Lament"
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right..
..and which is an illusion?
Pinprick holes in a colourless sky,
Let inspired figures of light pass by,
The mighty light of ten thousand suns,
Challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
To others the fear of solitude.
Brave Helios wake up your steeds,
Bring the warmth the countryside needs.
Breathe deep; the gathering gloom.
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day's useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right..
..and which is an illusion?
last night in the moments my thoughts were adrift
and coasting a terrace approaching a rift,
through which I could spy several glimpses beneath
of the darkness the light from above could not reach
I spied wings of reason herself taking flight
and upon yonder precipice saw her alight,
and glare back at me, one last look of dismay,
as if she were the last one she thought I'd betray
so much the better I said to myself
and drawing quite close to the top of the shelf
I struggled with destiny up on the ledge
and gasped when defeated he slipped off the edge
and silence, contagious in moments like these,
consumed me and strengthened my will to appease
the passion that sparked me one terrible night
and shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite
Edgar Allen Poe, "Alone"
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
Ezra Pound, "Ancient Music"
Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
Cole Swensen, "New Math"
As if the word everything
as all words do.
We refer again to "prosopognosia"--
that condition in which
the victim cannot distinguish
If we could compute the numerical value
of a turning wrist, a sense of shock,
toast on a plate,
paint by number
one picture in a single dimension.
Both portrait and landscape
can trace their ancestry
back to the point.
If every breath
is a separate equation
and yet they all equal zero,
that egg with a vacuum inside,
that insensible which we
sense and call invisible
has succeeded in imaging a new circle,
any thing in which
each point lies the same
distance from any other.
Cole Swensen, "Cathedral"
A rural man with a common name
A gap in our memory
The sound of a chisel into stone
still falling deeper into it.
It was there in his hands
the whole time. The key
and the pointed arch,
the waking early
and the lack of math.
No, in the lines of the palm
are those of the temple, know
the angles of a lover yawning
let in light which for all
its speed may never land.
It took him centuries
to knead out the weight
until they floated
from his hands at the final cut.
This is the hush that dissolves the service,
the forgetful air to the congregation.
He went to work every morning
like every other man,
uphill without end
but someone got to place the finishing piece
and shrink to a sound as he stood below. Amiens.
Ascent without boundaries
and with so much history to go.
When we dream we dream alone,
the only true flight is that of stone.
Cole Swensen, "Something You Said"
Light being a device for lifting.
Something on the stair. Blank.
"If I blink three times,"
The odd remarks, the
rubbed out sky,
all your voices,
particles of harbor,
some further breakdown,
"No, not at all like that."
A stream of simple observations,
leaves, things below heels.
You said something about dusting.
You said something about dust.
Something light, maybe paper
has fallen to the floor.
Punctuation of background noises,
traffic perhaps or sunlight on the stair,
voices follow us, satellites
and as such are always falling
in so permanent a way that
it looks intentional.
Even as you sit here with me
your words return, calling.
GH Yaghoobian, "No More Negations"
Lighten up, will you please, this sacred place: we (who have not yet
begun to wait), we (who must grasp to gather while we may),
we (who knock and bang at every door), we demand our celebration,
Brighten up our world, and beyond that, space; turn on the lights for
us, we humbly pray: drown us in the glow of forever today; envelop us
with illuminating cheer, laughter, grace.
Frightened not when it's time for us to wait, we will then have
something more to say: we'll recall all those we love and hate,
the monuments we built, awards we won, and other things we wished
we had done.