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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sunset Park

The Chinese truck driver
throws the rope
like a lasso, with a practiced flick,

over the load:
where it hovers an instant,
then arcs like a willow

into the waiting,
gloved hand
of his brother.

What does it matter
that, sitting in traffic,
I glanced out the window

and found them that way?
So lean and sleek-muscled
in their sweat-stiffened t-shirts:

offloading the pallets
just so they can load up
again in the morning,

and so on,
and so forth
forever like that—

like Sisyphus
I might tell them
if I spoke Mandarin,

or had a Marlboro to offer,
or thought for a minute
they’d believe it

when I say that I know
how it feels
to break your own

back for a living.
Then again,
what’s the difference?

When every light
for a mile turns
green all at once,

no matter how much
I might like
to keep watching

the older one squint
and blow smoke
through his nose?

Something like sadness,
like joy, like a sudden
love for my life,

and for the body
in which I have lived it,
overtaking me all at once,

as a bus driver honks
and the setting
sun glints, so bright

off a windshield
I wince and look back
and it’s gone.

--Patrick Phillips

Deep in the Quiet Wood

Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.

--James Weldon Johnson, 1871-1928

Current

I’m careful where I step. Water ripples
greenish blue against hot sand; pebbles mixed
with quartz grains and pine needles, sharp
amid the duff, blown down from the
upper stories of the sugar pines
clumped along the beach. Kids falling off
paddle boards into the cold lake, voices 
like stretched brake linings in the dry air.
A geometric rim of mountains in the
near distance. A few geese
float detached on the current. Beside
us a family under a mesh canopy
speaks English and Russian. 
I love the present with its layers
of seconds faceted like sparks
hammered off the glinting surface. 
I want to stay here endlessly,
standing at the convergence of sand and water
while we watch them sequestered
under the clutter of branches, breathing
suntan lotion. I dread the future, yet it arrives
little by little. Knowingly we disappear into it. 
Our bodies dissolve molecule by molecule
swept out to the edge of the intangible,
where light is compressed  into blackness.
Where red ants crawl in their columns across
rotting earth, leaving no more
than a trail of resin behind.

--Alan Soldofsky

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Oranges & the Ocean

Valencia in the ’90s, nowhere
were the oranges, except one slight
sight from the train’s blur. I burnt
my nipples right off the bat. No way
you could be as pretty as the girls
in Valencia, topless and tanned
all over. Pale blue hostel sheets
were barely bearable. All night
I thought I’d die when the moon
came in and I’d wake to the pinching
skin. But I didn’t die. I went right
back the next day, but in a T-shirt
and didn’t try to be pretty, just
swam like something ordinary,
something worthy of the sea.

--Ada Limon

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous 
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the 
mouths of the lambs. 
How rivers and stones are forever 
in allegiance with gravity 
while we ourselves dream of rising. 
How two hands touch and the bonds 
will never be broken. 
How people come, from delight or the 
scars of damage, 
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those 
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say 
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment, 
and bow their heads.

--Mary Oliver

Monday, March 2, 2015

Breakage

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

--Mary Oliver

Marsh Hawk

The marsh hawk
doesn't,

as other hawks do,
work his wings

like soft hinges
to make
progress over
the morning marsh,

but merely
or so it seems,
lays his breast upon the air
and the air, as if understanding,

floats him along
with his wings open,
and raised, just a little
beyond the horizontal-in thanks, perhaps,

to the great crystal carrier
of leaves and clouds-
of everything.
And even though his shadow

follows exactly
his every tilt and flow, and even though
he must know that hunger will win,
he doesn't hurry,

but floats in wide circles
as he gazes
into the marshes below
his hard beak

and the hooks of his feet, as though
wanting something
more lasting than meat.
At noon he's still  there

above the brambles, the grass, the flat water,
where, in their almost stately disengagement,
the incredible dampness and darkness
shine.  

--Mary Oliver

Before

No shoes and a glossy
red helmet, I rode
on the back of my dad’s
Harley at seven years old.
Before the divorce.
Before the new apartment.
Before the new marriage.
Before the apple tree.
Before the ceramics in the garbage.
Before the dog’s chain.
Before the koi were all eaten
by the crane. Before the road
between us, there was the road
beneath us, and I was just
big enough not to let go:
Henno Road, creek just below,
rough wind, chicken legs,
and I never knew survival
was like that. If you live,
you look back and beg
for it again, the hazardous
bliss before you know
what you would miss.

--Ada Limón

A Person Protests to Fate

A person protests to fate:

“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”

Fate nods.
Fate is sympathetic.

To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
are triumphs
for only the very young,
the very old.

During the long middle:

conjugating a rivet
mastering tango
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before

and the penmanships love practices inside the body.

--Jane Hirshfield