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, December 28, 2011

Jelly Beans

Three jelly beans remain in the bowl:
white, yellow, orange.
Glazed like tile, they shine in the lamplight,
the white one slightly apart,
bland and apologetic.
A full bowl was a transient temptation,
was at least an amusement.

I feel sad suddenly.
It's such a big, deep bowl,
like a reservoir drained of everything
but three little turtles.
I remember what my daughter said
as she practiced her long division:
Don't you kind of feel sorry for the remainders?

I should eat them, I know.
They haven't moved in days.
Winter is failing, but spring is weak, too,
Easter past, the ham bone bare.
Always there is some useless reminder
of better times, something absently picked up
and quietly laid back down.


[I remember what my daughter said / as she practiced her long division: / Don't you kind of feel sorry for the remainders? = favorite poem lines in recent memory. :)]

Coloring Book

Each picture is heartbreakingly banal,
a kitten and a ball of yarn,
a dog and bone.
The paper is cheap, easily torn.
A coloring book's authority is derived
from its heavy black lines
as unalterable as the ten commandments
within which minor decisions are possible:
the dog black and white,
the kitten gray.
Under the picture we find a few words,
a title, perhaps a narrative,
a psalm or sermon.
But nowhere do we come upon
a blank page where we might justify
the careless way we scribbled
when we were tired and sad
and could bear no more.

Musical Chairs

The music, quavering and faint,
had somehow kept order among us.
But when it stopped,
everyone rushed toward the lifeboats
where seats were scandalously insufficient.

Why had our parents given birth to so many of us?
They expected us to share, perhaps,
or they couldn’t imagine science failing in the end,
unsinkable science, the laboratory of miracles
where mice lived as quietly as they could.

Perhaps the sea would take us all finally,
perhaps the earth. Meanwhile
a tranquilizing waltz began
and we left the safety of our seats. The line of us,
that was really a circle, began to inch forward.

--Connie Wanek

Comb

This comb has been here since my son left home.
When I run my thumb across its teeth
it makes a rough hum.
Stamped in gold are these words:
GENUINE ACE HARD RUBBER.
That's not much to go on, and really,
I don't care whence it came,
what wind blew it in. What concerns me
is how long I should keep it,
whether he might ever need it, miss it,
whether he has any memory of its parting
his hair on one side, then the other,
as he stood exactly here
before the mirror in the morning light
untangling the night.

Everything Free

The lake and sky were quarreling along the horizon:
late September. Whose fault was that?
The birches unburdened themselves
of the thinnest leaves in memory.

Where an old man had lived alone in quiet squalor
the yard was filled with boxes
and a sign: EVERYTHING FREE.
He’d finally done as he’d promised;

he’d gone to Arizona to pan for gold.
People milled about, curious and disgusted,
and when every box had been overturned,
the shredded, chipped, tarnished, water-soaked, and smelly

goods determined to be irredeemable,
someone finally called the police.
The supply of clouds was inexhaustible, and the lake
had the sheen of titanium.

These were our riches.
There were gentler places to be poor.
People said he lived as he did because he was lazy
or lonely, but I believe

we all end up with what we really want.
Look around. You wanted this.
And I wanted one thing to remember him by
and took the sign.

--Connie Wanek

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Noel

When snow is shaken
From the balsam trees
And they're cut down
And brought into our houses

When clustered sparks
Of many-colored fire
Appear at night
In ordinary windows

We hear and sing
The customary carols

They bring us ragged miracles
And hay and candles
And flowering weeds of poetry
That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new
With their small limbs
And birdlike voices

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

--Anne Porter

The Mahogany Tree

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Shelter’d about
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perch’d round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit—
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short—
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we ’ll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup.—
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.

--William Thackeray

The Mystic's Christmas

"All hail!" the bells of Christmas rang,
"All hail!" the monks at Christmas sang,
The merry monks who kept with cheer
The gladdest day of all their year.

But still apart, unmoved thereat,
A pious elder brother sat
Silent, in his accustomed place,
With God's sweet peace upon his face.

"Why sitt'st thou thus?" his brethren cried,
"It is the blessed Christmas-tide;
The Christmas lights are all aglow,
The sacred lilies bud and blow.

"Above our heads the joy-bells ring,
Without the happy children sing,
And all God's creatures hail the morn
On which the holy Christ was born.

"Rejoice with us; no more rebuke
Our gladness with thy quiet look."
The gray monk answered, "Keep, I pray,
Even as ye list, the Lord's birthday.

"Let heathen Yule fires flicker red
Where thronged refectory feasts are spread;
With mystery-play and masque and mime
And wait-songs speed the holy time!

"The blindest faith may haply save;
The Lord accepts the things we have;
And reverence, howsoe'er it strays,
May find at last the shining ways.

"They needs must grope who cannot see,
The blade before the ear must be;
As ye are feeling I have felt,
And where ye dwell I too have dwelt.

"But now, beyond the things of sense,
Beyond occasions and events,
I know, through God's exceeding grace,
Release from form and time and space.

"I listen, from no mortal tongue,
To hear the song the angels sung;
And wait within myself to know
The Christmas lilies bud and blow.

"The outward symbols disappear
From him whose inward sight is clear;
And small must be the choice of days
To him who fills them all with praise!

"Keep while you need it, brothers mine,
With honest seal your Christmas sign,
But judge not him who every morn
Feels in his heart the Lord Christ born!"

--John Greenleaf Whittier

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Talk

My body is
A little
Green sea.

Bears bathe
In it
Then go to

Sleep in the
Basement.
A four-wheeler

Slams past,
And then the
Sea splashes

Around and
Around.
O little sea,

O my body,
Sit here with me
While I just talk.

--Noelle Kocot

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Without having asked

"Sometimes there is a force of life like the spring which mysteriously takes shape without your even having asked it to take shape, and this is frightening, it is terribly frightening. ... Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful." --James Wright

Friday, December 9, 2011

Faith

And into my doubt
the bells rang--

mourning doves and,
later, voices in song.

The dim breath
that left my body, the sliding

away of love,

scattered hairs
on the white sheets--

bodies are used
like weapons

it is what
they are meant for.

But the door, the door
is in the mind....

You can step out of
violence and into

sky.

There Are So Many Rooms in this House

In a dream I heard him say "egrets"

but as a verb, as in "sound egrets through space"

a mild soaring

*

In another dream, he corrects himself: what I mean to say

is egress,

pretty abandon

*

Some nights we recognize the latch in our hands
as something simple, like a daisy

other nights it is the reason we fail to love
or organize sound into the meat of our failure.

*

To hear yourself dreaming in someone else's
mouth--that is, a mind (your own, others) brought

to bear in blind, quiet garden. Lay here. Listen.
The throat of your voice on wings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing:Running

"Like writing, running is so much about mind over matter. There are times when you have to override the discomfort and keep pushing. That capacity to endure and then prevail is just amazing." --Susan Orlean, author and New Yorker staff writer

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Poetry of Creatures

"I think that anything in our world now that slows us down is to be valued. And maybe is a gift and maybe even a calling from God."

Listen.