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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No Pegasus

It looked a lot like a poem; it had lines
that preached enjambment; it had rhymes, of sorts,
both approximate and exact. It stopped on dimes.
Then started up again. It had cohorts—

metaphor and imagery and such—
and liked to keep time by beating on its
chest, though some might have said it walked with a crutch
and took more liberties than most of its fellow sonnets.

But it wasn’t a poem, or at least it said it wasn’t.
For who would want to be so small a thing?
It wanted to be a novel, and who doesn’t?

It hid its horsy face, its tail, its wing,
under a cloak of prose. It stopped prancing.
But try as it might, it could not sing.

Words on the Wind

—Ford River Rouge

I’d walk up the hill through wild grasses
rich with milkweed and flags and make a nest
in the place I’d tamped down over the days
of decent weather. The view was something
terrifying and never the same:
on calm days the great plumes rose straight up
to insult the delicate nostrils of angels.
I was twenty-four and had no use
for the God of my fathers, no use for anything
spiritual. I believed in the deepest organs,
the liver, the kidneys, the heart, the lungs.
Nonetheless as I sat cross-legged drinking
chocolate milk words came on the wind.
Can you imagine God speaking to you
as you ate a little round store-bought pie
on a hilltop in Dearborn, where no Jews
were welcomed, where the wind came
in waves through the wild grasses
that had the guts to thrive? How I yearned
for the character of weeds and grass
that seemed more mysterious and grand
than the words the wind scattered through air
so fetid it was sweet. Noon, May 12,
1952. I wrote it on a calendar
at home and later threw the thing away.
You want those words, you who still believe,
who think the exact words are essential
to your salvation or whatever
it is you pray for? I’ll take you there
on a spring day of wind and low gray sky,
a Dearborn day. We’ll bring two quarts
of chocolate milk and little store-bought
pies—apple, cherry, or pineapple,
each worse than the other—and find the nest
of fifty years ago, and maybe we’ll smoke
as all young men did, and lean back
into the flattened grass, and rest our heads
on the cold ground while we add our own
exhalations to the exquisite chaos
of the air, and commune with whoever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Letter to N.Y. (for Louise Craine)

In your next letter I wish you'd say 
where you are going and what you are doing; 
how are the plays, and after the plays 
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night, 
driving as if to save your soul 
where the road goes round and round the park 
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green 
standing alone in big black caves 
and suddenly you're in a different place 
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch, 
like dirty words rubbed off a slate, 
and the songs are loud but somehow dim 
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house 
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street, 
one side of the buildings rises with the sun 
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid 
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing, 
nevertheless I'd like to know 
what you are doing and where you are going. 

Elizabeth Bishop

Sara in Her Father's Arms

Cell by cell the baby made herself, the cells 
Made cells. That is to say 
The baby is made largely of milk. Lying in her father's arms, the little seed eyes 
Moving, trying to see, smiling for us 
To see, she will make a household 
To her need of these rooms--Sara, little seed, 
Little violent, diligent seed. Come let us look at the world 
Glittering: this seed will speak, 
Max, words! There will be no other words in the world 
But those our children speak. What will she make of a world 
Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

--George Oppen 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vertical

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees
which we notice
in December
as if for the first time:
row after row
of dark forms
yearning upwards.
And since we will be
horizontal ourselves
for so long,
let us now honor
the gods
of the vertical:
stalks of wheat
which to the ant
must seem as high
as these trees do to us,
silos and
telephone poles,
stalagmites
and skyscrapers.
But most of all
these winter oaks,
these soft-fleshed poplars,
this birch
whose bark is like
roughened skin
against which I lean
my chilled head,
not ready
to lie down.

--Linda Pastan

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

--Louis Erdrich

One Morning in Brooklyn

The snow is falling in three directions at once against the sienna brick of
              the houses across,
but the storm is mild, the light even, the erratic wind not harsh, and,
              tolling ten o'clock,
the usually undistinguished bells of the Sixth Street cathedral assume an
              authoritative dignity,
remarking with ponderous self-consciousness the holy singularities of
              this now uncommon day.
How much the pleasant sense, in our sheltering rooms, of warmth, enclosure:
              an idle, languid taking in,
with almost Georgian ease, voluptuous, reposeful, including titillations
              of the sin of well-being,
the gentle adolescent tempest, which still can't make up its mind quite,
              can't dig in and bite,
everything for show, flailing with a furious but futile animation wisps of
              white across the white.

--C.K.Williams

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reluctance

Out through the fields and the woods
   And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
   And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
   And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
   Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
   And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
   When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
   No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
   The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
   But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?

--Robert Frost