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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

From Vera Pavlova's "Heaven Is Not Verbose: A Notebook"

Poetry should be written the way adultery is committed: on the run, on the sly, during the time not accounted for. And then you come home, as if nothing ever happened.

Pick a piece of wood floating down the river and follow it down the current with your glance, keeping the eyes constantly on it, without getting ahead of the current. This is the way poetry should be read: at the pace of a line.

To write in spite of everything, even when generally speaking there is nothing to spite.

"The ovaries of a newborn girl contain up to 400,000 egg cells." All my poems are already in me.

From a letter of a young poet: "I write when I feel bad. When I feel fine, I don't write." With me, it's the opposite: when I write, I feel fine. I feel bad when I do not write.

I write about what I love. I love writing even more than what I write about. And what do I do it for? To love myself, if only for a brief while.

An ideal poem: every line of it can serve as a title for a book.

"In his books, and only in his books, a writer can do anything he pleases, provided he has talent. In real life, however, a writer cannot be overly lax, so as not to let people guess that in his books he tells the truth about himself." (L. Shestov)

--current issue of Poetry magazine

Song After Sadness

Despair is still servant
to the violet and wild ongoings
of bone. You, remember, are
that which must be made
servant only to salt, only
to the watery acre that is the body
of the beloved, only to the child
leaning forward into
the exhibit of birches
the forest has made of bronze light
and snow. Even as the day kneels
forward, the oceans and strung garnets, too,
kneel, they are all kneeling,
the city, the goat, the lime tree
and mother, the fearful doctor,
kneeling. Don't say it's the beautiful
I praise. I praise the human,
gutted and rising.

--Katie Ford

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring

Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

--Mary Oliver

Garbage Truck

Once I had two strong young men hanging off my butt
and a distinctive stink that announced
when I was inching down your street
at the regal, elephantine pace
that let my men step down from me running
to heave your garbage into my gut
then fling the clanging metal cans
to tumble and rumble, crash and leap
back to sort-of-where you'd lugged them to the curb
before another oblivious night of sleep.
Did you think life was tough?
I reveled in it, all the stuff
you threw out, used up, let rot,
the pretty packaging, the scum, the snot,
vomit and filth, everything you thought
useless, dangerous, or repugnant:
I ate it for breakfast. I hauled it
out of sight. And what did I get?
You were annoyed by my noise.
You coughed at my exhaust.
Your kids stopped playing in the street
to pinch their noses and gag theatrically
with no clue how sick they'd be without me.
I was the lowest of the low, an untouchable,
yet I did what I did and did it well.
Now I am not laughable: a "waste management vehicle"
denatured robotic sanitized presentable.
My strong young men are gone. I have no smell.
I'm painted deep green to look organic and clean.
Your "residential trash carts" are matching green
injection-molded high-density polyethylene
that barely thuds when I lower them to the ground
after I've stabbed and lifted and upended them
with twin prongs that retract into my side
so not to scratch anything or scare anyone.
Who can complain? Right there on your street
I mash and compact and obliterate your waste.
You need never give it a second thought.
It's safe it's easy nobody gets dirty.
It's how you want your life to be.
But life's not garbage. Garbage is life.
Look what you've got. Look what you throw out.

--Michael Ryan

Monday, March 19, 2012

Full Circle

In my youth, no one spoke of love
where I lived, except I spoke of it,
and then only in the dark. The word was known
like the name of a city on another continent.
No one called anyone his friend,
although they had friends. Perhaps they were afraid
to commit so much of themselves,
to demand so much of others; for if they'd said,
"We're friends," as they never did,
it would have been a contract.
As it was, they could quarrel,
even hit one another if they were drunk,
and remain friends, never having said it.
Where nothing was sworn there could be no betrayal.
Nor did they touch
casually; their persons seemed to occupy
more space than their bodies did.
Seeing an adult run we'd have looked first for the reason
in the direction from which he came. We never met trains;
my people were like that.
It was not enough for me.
"I love you," I said.
Whispered it, painfully, and was laughed at;
hid until the wounds healed and said it again,
muttered it.
Wanting to be loved, "I love you," was what I said.
And I learned to touch, as a legless man
learns to walk again.
Came to live among people
who called anyone a friend
who was not an enemy, to whom there were no strangers:
because there were so many, they were invisible.
Now, like everyone else, I send
postcards to acquaintances, With Love—
Love meaning, I suppose, that I remember the recipients
kindly and wish them well. But I say it
less often and will not be surprised
at myself if the time comes when I do not say it,
when I do not touch, except desperately, when I ask
nothing more of others, but greet them with a wink,
as my grandfather might have done, looking up
for an instant from his carpenter's bench.

--Alden Nowlan

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whoa!

"There is nothing but beauty--and beauty has only one perfect expression, Poetry. All the rest is a lie." --Stéphane Mallarmé

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Aside [wow]

Girls peeling skin, peeling splinters back, making origami
of each other’s faces, girls rug-burned and face-planted,
girls with blood under their nails, girls biting boys
on the playground, whitening their knuckles, girls hiding
by fences, in the bleachers, under sheets, girls
eraser-burning their wrists. It was always the girls,
snapped-elastic and shoulder welts, graphite under skin,
split-chin and stitched three times, girls poisoning pet snails
with nail polish, girls dragging girls across haylofts
& digging their feet in, probing dead mice
behind the farmhouse, girls whitewashed & clapboarded,
bobby-pin stabbed & decidedly. Little girls
with red tongues, teeth wired, sweaty & shoving quieter girls
under bus seats, girls faking their own adoptions,
tearing leaves, deveining everything in the schoolyard,
girls gouging each other with tweezers, with heels,
girls I knew all of you and now—

--Louisa Diodato

Thursday, March 15, 2012

After the e-mail saying you forgave me

It was about the time the first
poplar leaves turn yellow.
The cottonmouth, thick as a muscular arm,

slid into the water at my feet.
The marsh burst into autumn.
Motionless in the rushes,

a mother doe and her fawn stared
at me, necks slender, eyes intent.
Your heart would have overflowed.

The beaver arched its glossy
fan of a tail in the far shallows.

I looked in vain for its mate as
it disappeared, wild and beautiful,
into the black water, out of reach.

--Ralph Earle

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

At the Goodwill

Like crows tearing at roadkill,
people rummage among the aisles
and clothes bins,
ransacking the discarded clutter of other lives
for that special undiscovered something.

Beyond an army of tired shoes, you make your way
to the back corner
where golf clubs by the hundreds jut from barrels,
shafts and clubheads jumbled helter-skelter.

Nearby, old golf bags are piled like clumsy sea creatures
dead upon the sand.
Splayed zippers and torn pockets full of old golf balls,
crumpled scorecards, stubby pencils, and old tees....

Some clubs are still caked with mud,
remnant of the day they were last played,
orphaned by the terse calling card of death,
forgotten in basements or garages long past the funeral,
until they are dropped off, lifted from the trunks of cars
with a pallbearer's decorum....

Clubs once cherished by men,
magic implements to leverage the spirit,
arcane as alchemists' weapons—
Spalding Synchro-Dyned Top-Flite,
Lynx Predator, Golden Ram,
Wilson Strata-Bloc Cup Defender,
MacGregor Oil Hardened Chieftain—
each club someone's personal Excalibur
elevating the soul with each dance-like swing,
old woods, maple and persimmon, once
lovingly cleaned and oiled,
now grimy, cast off, seemingly dead.

But if you close your eyes, you can feel something—
a low hum, diffuse as starlight—
all the accumulated shot-concentration of decades
stored in the clubs like batteries,
the fire of long-dead golfers still smoldering
in the grips and clubheads.

Bring an armful home. Scour them clean.
Rub lemon oil into the wood, and mink oil
onto the leather grips.
Tomorrow, take them out on the course.
Send the ball flying with a satisfying crack of wood,
the club in your hand ecstatic as a blind man
with restored sight.

--Timothy Walsh

Looking at the Sky

I never will have time
I never will have time enough
To say
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
As easily
And lightly as a bird
Although she is a world
Made all of stone.

I never will have time enough
To praise
The way the stars
Hang glittering in the dark
Of steepest heaven
Their dewy sparks
Their brimming drops of light
So fresh so clear
That when you look at them
It quenches thirst.

--Anne Porter

River

A delicate fuzz of fog
like mold, or moss,
all across the river
in this early light.
Another day, I might
have still been sleeping.

What a pity. How the stars
and seas and rivers
in their fragile lace of fog
go on without us
morning after morning,
year after year.
And we disappear.

--Pat Schneider

A Cold Rain the Day Before Spring

From heaven it falls on the gray pitted ice
that has been here since December.
In the gutter rivulets erode piles
of dirt and road salt into small countries
and the morning is so dark, in school

teachers turn on fluorescent lights
and everyone comes in smelling of damp wool.
From heaven it falls, just the opposite
of prayer, which I send up
at the traffic light: please

let me begin over again, one
more time over again, wipe the slate
clean, the same way after school
janitors, keys jangling from
belt loops, will use a wet rag and wipe

the school day off, so there is only
the residue, faint white on the smooth
surface. It's the same way
the infield looks before the game
begins, or the ice on a rink

between periods. All new again
for the moment and glistening.
Imagine each day you get to start
again and again. Again. How many
days does the janitor enter the room

of your soul, wipe it clean
go out into the hallway
and push his broom
down the long corridor, full
of doors to so many rooms.

--Stuart Kestenbaum

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blandeur

If it please God,
let less happen.
Even out Earth's
rondure, flatten
Eiger, blanden
the Grand Canyon.
Make valleys
slightly higher,
widen fissures
to arable land,
remand your
terrible glaciers
and silence
their calving,
halving or doubling
all geographical features
toward the mean.
Unlean against our hearts.
Withdraw your grandeur
from these parts.

--Kay Ryan

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dear Day

Lately I am more aware of how easily
you might lope carelessly off into a fog
of never and gray, and so when you come

in the morning with your pincers on,
when you wake me with your snorts
and hacks, when you lie down next to me

with your scales poking all my soft places,
I hold you to me. The bruises will heal,
and it isn’t your fault you’re so spiny.

Day, you lower your monstrous head
and let me pat it. You are gleaming
and everything. You are genus unknown,

phylum unnamed. You glint and lumber,
you drool and growl. Soon, maybe,
you’ll let me climb on your back. Soon,

maybe, we’ll bullet together into forests
and glades and gladness. So stay. Walk
beside me with your armor on, breathe

flames at the beasts that bite. If I get singed,
it’s okay. I’d pay levy upon levy
for your glittering shadow beside me.

--Catherine Pierce

Monday, March 5, 2012

Toward Empathy

Surely every couple has one:
the gripe with the most traction.
Ours regards order in the apartment,
and the friction between it and us
is plenty, enough.

On returning home, you deposit
the day’s gains with casual hand—
change, tissues, papers scattered
across the kitchen table,
a formlessness I can’t accept.

We circled it again the other day.
I explained how a cleared chair,
a hung coat fills in for arms
I can’t control; a weak proxy,
but still.

When it was your turn,
you invoked possibility,
made your case for easy access:
when things are sent to their homes
immediately, I worry I’ll forget.


In days since, a memory:
family meals at the local Denny’s—
trays with pastel sugar packets,
golden nuggets of butter, tiny tubs of jam;
all for us. How the only option
for my brother and me was
everything on our toast.

--me

Your Own Power

"I always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." --Paula Radcliffe

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Live Oaks, New Orleans

They square off along Napoleon avenue,
opposing armies of dark women, leaning out
so far their branches meet at the top, like hands
grabbing fistfuls of tangled hair;
and some of them are old, with the thick,
scarred trunks of Storyville madams, and
roots so strong their suck heaves
up the sidewalk like so many broken
saltines. And some are young, with the
straightbacked bodies of girls who dream
of horses and the brown arms of the neighbor boys,
but underground the red roots grow together,
fuse in a living circuitry spun deep and
stronger than the whims of emperors, as if
they've known all along that earth's the right
place for love, as though, planted in battle lines,
they incline toward the circle, and hold it open,
vaulted and welcoming.

--Jennifer Maier

Order

"I would feel dead if I didn't have the ability periodically to put my world in order with a poem. I think to be inarticulate is a great suffering, and is especially so to anyone who has a certain knack for poetry." --Richard Wilbur