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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Disaster Work

Someone is on the plane
that noses 2,000 feet into the air, stops,
then drops. Someone is in
the tornado-flattened Texaco station.
Someone is on the bus the suicidal
or stroke-struck driver launches
through the guardrail and off the mountain.


It isn’t you. You’re watching
a ticker scroll placidly across
the bottom of the screen, thinking
awful, awful, and below those words,
deeper than articulation can go,
hums your golden gratitude
that once again this is a tragedy


you can witness but not touch.
You can continue the work
of chewing your waffle. You can
approach the smoothed edges
of disaster, and you can,
when you light on a rough spot—
the image of the little boy’s


brown shoe in the rubble, the woman
who looks like your mother
howling in a blue hat—pull back.
Some will say this is cowardice,
your unwillingness to hold
these horrors in your hands. But
if you considered, truly, the dead child,


the husband that the woman
who looks like your mother
will never see again; if you considered,
truly, what it means that a plane
could drop without warning
with its full load of daughters
and coaches and magazine-readers,


that the sky might unfold a beast
that will hunt you without reason,
that the white-mustached man
behind the wheel of your bus
is not programmed but is a human
stranger you have chosen to trust
with your absurdly flimsy life—


how in the world could you do
the work of chewing your waffle?
How could you do the impossible work
of putting your child to bed,
saying goodnight, closing the door
on the darkness?


--Catherine Pierce

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