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, May 30, 2016

Having to explain what's going on

"When you're busy with horses, people can see that you are busy, but when you're busy making a poem, you look as if you're in a state of idleness and you feel a little strange or embarrassed having to explain what's going on." --Alice Munro

Pure, easy, delectable sorrow

"I like being sad, which mystified her; I like it until I reach the nadir where sadness changes, as if chemically, to repulsion and self-loathing, making me wish that I was 'capable' of 'handling' things instead of turning away from them in disgust until my disgust disgusts me, and my anger at my inadequacy as a human being angers me, and all of that pure, easy, delectable sorrow gets squandered." --Kristen Iskandrian

Then I am listening

"I can go months without writing; I am often waiting to feel angry, or for any emotional event, or just a deadline to push me. But accepting the stretches of not writing is okay, too. I mean: If I feel alert and awake and thoughtful and without remorse, then I am listening, which for me is also writing." --Corina Copp

It is I who feel profoundly fucked up

"When I was at Harvard, Jamaica Kincaid once said in our workshop, 'Write about that which most embarrasses you.' I think that's profoundly good advice. It's so easy, isn't it, to climb atop a soapbox and recite a poem about the ways in which we believe the world is fucked up? Who, for example, doesn't know the whole world is in cinders. And so I believe my work can be more effective, can reach deeper inside the reader if I say, 'It is I who feel profoundly fucked up,' and then explore why, meticulously." --Robin Coste Lewis 

Narrow your vision

"When dealing with large and emotionally charged subject matter, I find it useful to narrow my vision so I'm not intimidated by the scope of the material. It's much easier to describe the card my parents sent to family and friends my first Christmas than it is to write about my father's violence and temper. The larger subjects are always contained in the smaller ones..." --Barry Lopez

You come to hear

"The rule is: When you go to the page you fuck up the music you hear in your head, and by fucking it up, you come to hear what that music sounds like. Then you can begin to change." --Tom Spanbauer

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Few Surprising Turns

A few surprising turns follow us everywhere.
I was shopping for something to replace
what I once felt. Weren’t there buildings there
where we once lived, fully furnished
and looking out on the sea? Didn’t we distill
from neighbors the necessary codes
and gestures? At the core we were all traipse
and meander, governed by fill in the blank.
But it was here, the ramshackle Cape Cod
with rattling shutters eaten away
then revived, mended and painted over.
It takes just a scent of sea spray
to bring back the once was: skimpy,
the bikini, the beach, the conversation,
the veil of summer, skimpy the engine
that chugs toward love, skimpy the cover
of the universe. Thanks to this fragrance
we can sit under our favorite cedar,
or picture the old dreaded barber shop.
Now I want my hair touched, and my cheek.
I want the salt rubbed out with a handkerchief.

--Ira Sadoff, 1945

To the Moon [fragment]

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
   Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

--Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822

Friday, May 13, 2016

For My Mother

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Opening out
Into the world.
And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.

--May Sarton

Fire Warnings

So much on the verge
of flame.
In a hot
wind anything
is tinder: paper, sage

feverish with bees,
your auburn
hair, my hand
that glows with a thought.
Sunset

or sleepless dawn,
nothing is sure
but what’s already burned—
water that’s ash, steel
that has flowed and cooled,

though in the core
of a star, they too
would fuse and rage,
and even volcanic
glass and char,

and the cold seas,
and even    
what we once were
might burn again—
or in the heart.

--James Richardson

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Poem to First Love

To have been told “I love you” by you could well be, for me,
the highlight of my life, the best feeling, the best peak
on my feeling graph, in the way that the Chrysler building
might not be the tallest building in the NY sky but is
the best, the most exquisitely spired, or the way that
Hank Aaron’s career home-run total is not the highest
but the best, the one that signifies the purest greatness. 
So improbable!  To have met you at all and then
to have been told in your soft young voice so soon
after meeting you: “I love you.”  And I felt the mystery
of being that you, of being a you and being
loved, and what I was, instantly, was someone
who could be told “I love you” by someone like you. 
I was, in that moment, new; you were 19; I was 22;
you were impulsive; I was there in front of you, with a future
that hadn’t yet been burned for fuel; I had energy;
you had beauty; and your eyes were a pale blue,
and they backed what you said with all they hadn’t seen,
and they were the least ambitious eyes I’d known,
the least calculating, and when you spoke and when
they shone, perhaps you saw the feeling you caused.
Perhaps you saw too that the feeling would stay.

--Matthew Yeager

Pastoral

The little sparrows
Hop ingenuously
About the pavement
Quarreling
With sharp voices
Over those things
That interest them.
But we who are wiser
Shut ourselves in
On either hand
And no one knows
Whether we think good
Or evil.
                  Then again,
The old man who goes about
Gathering dog lime
Walks in the gutter
Without looking up
And his tread
Is more majestic than
That of the Episcopal minister
Approaching the pulpit
Of a Sunday.
These things
Astonish me beyond words.

--William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

On Falling (Blue Spruce)

Dusk fell every night. Things
fall. Why should I
have been surprised. 

Before it was possible
to imagine my life
without it, the winds

arrived, shattering air
and pulling the tree
so far back its roots,

ninety years, ripped
and sprung. I think
as it fell it became

unknowable. Every day
of my life now I cannot
understand. The force

of dual winds lifting
ninety years of stillness
as if it were nothing,

as if it hadn’t held every
crow and fog, emptying
night from its branches. 

The needles fell. The pinecones
dropped every hour
on my porch, a constant

irritation. It is enough
that we crave objects,
that we are always

looking for a way
out of pain. What is beyond
task and future sits right

before us, endlessly
worthy. I have planted
a linden, with its delicate

clean angles, on a plot
one tenth the size. Some change
is too great. 

Somewhere there is a field,
white and quiet, where a tree
like this one stands,

made entirely of
hovering. Nothing will
hold me up like that again.

--Joanna Klink

Tattoo

You do know, right,
that between the no-

longer & the still-
to-come

you are being continually
tattooed, inked

with the skulls of
everyone

you’ve ever loved—the you
& the you

& the you & the you—you don’t
sit in a chair, thumb

through a binder, pick a
design, it simply

happens each time you
bring your fingers to your face

to inhale him back into you . . .
tiny skulls, some of us are

covered. You, love, could

simply tattoo an open
door, light

pouring in from somewhere
outside, you

could make your body a door
so it appears you

(let her fill you) are made
of light.

--Nick Flynn

Park Going to Sleep

The shadows under the trees
And in the vines by the boat-house
Grow dark,
And the lamps gleam softly.

On the street, far off,
The sound of the cars, rumbling,
Moves drowsily.
The rocks grow dim on the edges of the shore.

The boats with tired prows against the landing
Have fallen asleep heavily:
The monuments sleep
And the trees
And the smooth slow-winding empty paths sleep.

--Helen Hoyt