What ran past,
all sad and wan, sad and wan?
A man can attack a man
as fast as that—
as fast as a mad park-swan
that attacks all;
a man can stand and fall—
a mark past warn,
ask what and hand all
that wants all;
a man can backward fall,
as sad as a rag—
past all harm—as far as that,
as daft as a law that can’t,
a black tag as a flag.
Wore the soft light of evening for awhile. Dressed
up in neon. Admired my arm at rest on a quiet table.
Went for the mirrors with my eyes. Broke my own
Who is my sorrow now, sweet person?—one with
new lies. Don’t ask me to squander a moment. I am
too far. Don’t ask for my story or tell me yours.
I took the care out of caring and left it where it lay,
like a precious coin for somebody’s rainy day. And
I walked away—oh, new person—
I walked away, with the music still blaring and the
night too full of something I wanted to say, but the
neon world had begun to shiver, so I walked away.
A MAN SITS WHINING
After Stephen Crane
A man sits whining
on the side of the road.
He is tired of his life.
He loves, but cannot be loved.
He is tired of compromise,
the resistance to his words.
He shudders with hate.
All he wants is love.
Night brings some old lamenting, far and thin.
We listen to a trilling mockingbird.
I can’t believe the state of mind I’m in.
I cannot sort the silence from the din;
I don’t know how the edges get so blurred.
Night comes with its lamenting—far and thin,
the moon so full I fancy that a pin
could prick it till it bled—or some sharp sword.
I do not like this state of mind I’m in.
I thought we’d never question love again;
I cannot seem to sever thought from word.
Night brings this old lamenting, far and thin:
what is, is never what it might have been.
There is no solace. Nothing is assured.
I cannot help the state of mind I’m in—
that lovesick bird that only mocks us when
love will believe some rumor that it’s heard.
Night brings the old lamenting, far and thin.
I cannot trust the state of mind I’m in.
TIRED OF BATTLES
I will go where the violence
where utterances lie in paths
where no one cares or remembers
were there first,
I am tired of battles.
I am tired of finding new weapons
and using them.
I am tired of dodging
accusatory and unforgiving,
as if I were a reason used
to begin wars.
LINES FOR AN OLD MEMORY
All these lines—the sea too far away—
and still I write of summers that were mine
and watch for seagulls’ silver-textured climb
and on my face, still feel the ocean spray.
I used to hate that chill of winter gray
that wrapped itself around my restless years,
the ones I filled with childish tantrum tears,
the ones I feel still burn my face today.
I wanted summer back with summer’s play.
I still can feel the sharp, salt-heavy air
while walking to the far end of the pier.
Winter was a tedious delay.
For all those times I walked along its shore,
I want the sea to love me as before.
And the heart beats with longing, even as
the blood flows. What does love know
of this—or hate—or any passion?
It is all slow completion, even as it begins.
Take fear, which is delicious—
surface and depth—like a terrible wish.
Is it death we know,
cat and toy,
the prize on the end of a question?
And the blood goes round and round
the body’s universe,
bearing the life along like a tireless swimmer.
THE HARVEST WE ARE TIRED OF
Mygod, you talk of Christmas
and the sun upon the land
shrivels the harvest we are tired of.
Buckets of pithy squash and soft tomatoes
stand useless for our energy.
The beans swell in themselves
and dry upon the pole.
This day we must consider what we lose
for we are sick with lethargy
and turn instead to talk of winter.
But rain-threat from the mountains
will not come
though thunder almost sounds
where we are looking.
The air is dusty.
Birds are shrill and restless as
the rumors that we feel.
We should be gleaning,
saving more of our investment
than we do.
(first pub. in One Dog, 1996)
She wipes and cleans,
makes her world neat,
can’t stand anything dirty.
She has such scrubbed
and shining hands; water
is handy, and white rags.
Everything she touches
sings with a
sleek and shining sound.
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix on last week’s Seed of the Week: Things I Can’t Stand, as we turn the corner away from Summer and into Fall. In fact, our new Seed of the Week is “After Labor Day”. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
The formula for a Kraeft sonnet, should you be so bold, is abba abba cddc eee. For more about Villanelles (should you be even bolder) can be found at www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/villanelle.html/.
Poetry Off-the-Shelf, a poetry read-around, meets tonight in El Dorado Hills at the library, 5-7pm. And please note that the on-going Tuesday at Two poetry workshop, which meets in Placerville every Tuesday from 2-3pm, will move as of this week to the large crafts room at Placerville Senior Center, 937 Spring St, Placerville. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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