Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ars Poetica

To have
even a
lotto chance

of getting
somewhere
within yourself

you don’t quite know
but feel

To cling
to the periphery
through the constant

gyroscopic
re-drawing of its
provinces

To make
what Makers make

you must set aside
certainty

Leave it
a lumpy backpack
by the ticket window
at the station

Let the gentleman
in pleated khakis
pressed for time

claim it

The certainty
not the poem.

--Leslie McGrath

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beige Wall Telephone, 1960s

To you who have never known what it is to be tethered 
    to the family's one phone by a corkscrew cord 
         filthied by idle fingers twisting it as we talked 
and stretched by our efforts to sneak with the handset

away from the dining room where that cheap plastic box 
    clung to the wall, my sister and I desperate 
         to hide behind curtains or in a nearby room 
and mumble dumb endearments to whichever lucky soul

we had a crush on that week: I won't say how wonderful 
    it felt to hear a call's unexpected tremolo 
         and rush to answer that sudden summons, 
lifting the receiver's heavy curve out of its metal hook,

or to dial seven numbers on a whirring analog wheel 
    and hear a distant ringing pulse in the ear, 
         knowing that actual bells trilled as a body 
moved through space to deliver its hopeful Hello?—

no, it was awful, that phone, intended for businesses, 
    brisk standing exchanges of information, 
         not a home where its too-public anchoring 
left adolescent siblings open to each other's mockery

and the cocked ears of nosy parents straining to decode 
    one side of conversations as we curled closer 
         to the wall and whispered words downward 
into the darkness that our huddling made, not pacing

like a barking dog chained to a stake in the backyard 
    but trying our best to vanish, descending 
         slow as a diver sipping words like oxygen 
from a humming line whose other end kept us breathing.

--Michael McPhee

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tree Poem

It wasn’t that he wanted to take his life.
He wanted to take his death
into his own hands. There was
a difference, he knew, though he couldn’t
articulate it. More speculative than suicidal,
more curious than depressed,
more interested than not,
he didn’t want to talk to a therapist.
He wanted to talk to Walt Whitman.
He wanted to talk to his best friend from
kindergarten, who’d moved away
on the cusp of first grade, and he never
saw him again. He wanted to climb a tree
and sit up there all alone in the top branches
watching it absorb the carbon dioxide.
He had a bit of the tree in him himself.
He had similar aspirations
and spent much of his time in the branching
ramifications in his head. But because his children
would never live it down, he climbed
down from the tree in the car in the garage
every time, and walked back into his life with a few
leaves and twigs still sticking to his head.

--Paul Hostovsky

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cake

Look, you
want it
you devour it
and then, then
good as it was
you realize
it wasn’t
what you
exactly
wanted
what you
wanted
exactly was
wanting

--Noah Eli Gordon

When I Read the Book

When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man’s life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught my life,
Why even I myself I often think know little or nothing of my real         
      life, Only a few hints, a few diffused faint clews and indirections
I seek for my own use to trace out here.)

--Walt Whitman

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Bridge Poem



Stone and Steel: Paintings and Writings Celebrating the Bridges of New York City

Yes: I Loved the Great Bridges...

Yes: I loved the great bridges and walked back and forth over them, year after year. But as often happens with repeated experiences, one memory stands out above all others: a twilight hour in early spring—it was March, I think—when, starting from the Brooklyn end, I faced into the west wind sweeping over the rivers from New Jersey. The ragged, slate-blue cumulus clouds that gathered over the horizon left open patches for the light of the waning sun to shine through, and finally, as I reached the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, the sunlight spread across the sky, forming a halo around the jagged mountain of skyscrapers, with the darkened loft buildings and warehouses huddling below in the foreground. The towers, topped by the golden pinnacles of the new Woolworth Building, still caught the light even as it began to ebb away. Three-quarters of the way across the Bridge I saw the skyscrapers in the deepening darkness become slowly honeycombed with lights until, before I reached the Manhattan end, these buildings piled up in a dazzling mass against the indigo sky.

Here was my city, immense, overpowering, flooded with energy and light; there below lay the river and the harbor, catching the last flakes of gold on their waters, with the black tugs, free from their barges, plodding dockward, the ferryboats lumbering from pier to pier, the tramp steamers slowly crawling toward the sea, the Statue of Liberty erectly standing, little curls of steam coming out of boat whistles or towered chimneys, while the rumbling elevated trains and trolley cars just below me on the Bridge moved in a relentless tide to carry tens of thousands homeward. And there was I, breasting the March wind, drinking in the city and the sky, both vast, yet both contained in me, transmitting through me the great mysterious will that had made them and the promise of the new day that was still to come.

...

I have carried the sense of that occasion, along with two or three other similar moments, equally enveloping and pregnant, through my life: they remain, not as a constant presence, but as a momentary flash reminding me of heights approached and scaled, as a mountain climber might carry with him the memory of some daring ascent, never to be achieved again. Since then I have courted that moment more than once on the Brooklyn Bridge; but the exact conjunction of weather and light and mood and inner readiness has never come back. That experience remains alone: a fleeting glimpse of the utmost possibilities life may hold for man.

--Lewis Mumford