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Chard deNiord

Dream of Heaven

About this Poem 

“This poem was inspired by a friend who writes every day without any overriding ambition to publish his superb stories. He occasionally checks in to cheap motels by the ocean just to write. His love of writing for the sake of writing reminded me of John Berryman’s advice to the young W. S. Merwin when he was a student at Princeton—advice that Merwin recounts in his poem ‘Berryman’: “I had hardly begun to read / I asked how can you ever be sure / that what you write is really / any good at all and he said you can’t // you can’t you can never be sure / you die without knowing / whether anything you wrote was any good / if you have to be sure don’t write.” I found these lines disturbing at first, then strangely consoling, almost in the religious sense.  But how to write about writing as its own ultimate reward and capture its never-ending process at the same time? In the conceit of a dream, I thought. I almost called this poem ‘Motel Seven.’”
Chard deNiord

Dream of Heaven

Chard deNiord, 1952

I’d smoke cigars all day and into the night
while I wrote and wrote without
any hope or slightest assurance
that anything I’d written actually mattered
or rose to a standard of literary merit.
I’d languish in the smoke that did me in
and call it the cloud of my unknowing,
so sweet in its taste, such as it was,
of Cuban soil. That would be paradise
in heaven that’s so overrated as endless
bliss it kills to imagine as a place for living
forever, no less, with nothing to do
or lips to kiss. I’d curse, therefore,
with the best of them—the legion
of Saved—as I sharpened my pencils
and smoked my Punches in the simple room
that I’d be given with a desk for writing
and bed for remembering the things
I’d forgotten. And reading too, I almost
forgot. I’d read and read since I’d be done
with sleeping, but dreaming, no, still dreaming
a lot. I’d live to live again with moments
of dying to see how “lucky” I was. I’d use
my body as an eidolon with invisible wings
that fluttered in the void as if it were air
and hummed in the dark in which I could see.

Copyright © 2015 by Chard deNiord. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 27, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Chard deNiord. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 27, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

poem

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
1916
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Mark Strand (left) and Donald Justice, 1962
poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou
1978
collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

Juan Felipe Herrera