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Alvaro's Favorite Poems

Alvaro's Favorite Poems

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Quick Black Hole Spin-Change
Edward Sanders

I don't like it—

two massive Black Holes
each twirling at the core of 
                      two merging galaxies

get close enough
to fuse together

then quick as a wink
just as they are melting into a New Black Hole Blob

they undergo something called a "spin-flip"

they change the axes of their spins
and the fused-together Black Hole Blob
gets its own
          quick as a cricket's foot

Don't like it at all

And then the new Black Hole Blob sometimes
bounces back and forth inside
                              its mergèd Galaxy

till it settles at the center

but sometimes a "newly" up-sized Black Hole
leaves its Galaxy
to sail out munchingly on its own
                                 into the Universal It

I don't like it

Nothing about it
in the Bhagavad Gita
the Book of Revelation
Shakespeare, Sappho, or Allen Ginsberg

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Drinking Song
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Wine comes in at the mouth   
And love comes in at the eye;   
That’s all we shall know for truth   
Before we grow old and die.   
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Making a Fist
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother. 
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Days of Me
Stuart Dischell

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.

That's me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others'
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Clear Midnight
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
	done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
	themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Four Noble Truths
Anne Waldman, 1945

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Howl, Part III and Footnote to Howl
Allen Ginsberg, 1926 - 1997

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Recuerdo
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. 
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table, 
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon; 
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon. 

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry; 
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, 
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere; 
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold, 
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold. 

We were very tired, we were very merry, 
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. 
We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head, 
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read; 
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears, 
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Testament
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
I give the undertakers permission to haul my body  
to the graveyard and to lay away all, the head, the  
feet, the hands, all: I know there is something left  
over they can not put away.  
  
Let the nanny goats and the billy goats of the shanty
people eat the clover over my grave  and if any yellow  
hair or any blue smoke of flowers is good enough to grow  
over me  let the dirty-fisted children of the shanty  
people pick these flowers.  
  
I have had my chance to live with the people who have
too much and the people who have too little and I chose  
one of the two and I have told no man why.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Howl, Parts I & II
Allen Ginsberg, 1926 - 1997

For Carl Solomon

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving
  hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry
  fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the 
  starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the
  supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of
  cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels
  staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkan-
  sas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes
  on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in
  wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt 
  of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or
  purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and 
  endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind
  leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the mo-
  tionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunk-
  enness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
  blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring
  winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of
  mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy
  Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought 
  them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain
  all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat
  through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the
  crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox, 
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue
  to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire
  escapes off windowsills of Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and
  anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with
  brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous
  picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of
  China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wonder-
  ing where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward
  lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah
  because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels
  who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural 
  ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse 
  of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or
  soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
  and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but
  the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in
  fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts
  with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incompre-
  hensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze 
  of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and 
  undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and
  wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before 
  the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for 
  committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and 
  intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof
  waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and
  screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of
  Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of
  public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whom-
  ever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind
  a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to 
  pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew
  of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the
  womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass
  and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom.
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a
  package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued
  along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with
  a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of con-
  sciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and
  were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of
  the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C.,
  secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver--joy to
  the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner
  backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or
  with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings
  & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys
  too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a 
  sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-
  over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams
  & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks
  waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-
  heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hud-
  son under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall 
  be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy 
  bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions
  and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to
  build harpsichords in their lofts,

who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the
  tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in
  the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming
  of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside 
  of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next 
  decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and
  were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were 
  growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue
  amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regi-
  ments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertis-
  ing & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down
  by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked 
  away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown
  soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window,
  jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the 
  street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph
  records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whis-
  key and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears
  and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to the each other's
  hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you
  had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver
  & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
  Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver
  is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salva-
  tion and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a 
  second, 
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals 
  with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang
  sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha
  or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or 
  Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with
  their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently
  presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with
  shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instanta-
  neous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity
  hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & am-
  nesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table,
  resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and 
  fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns 
  of the East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the
  echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
  dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to 
  stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the 
  tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 a.m. and the last 
  telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room 
  emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper
  rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary,
  nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination--
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the
  total animal soup of time--
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash 
  of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the
  vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images
  juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual
  images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of
  consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens
  Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before
  you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet 
  confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his
  naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here
  what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow
  of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love
  into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered
  the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies 
  good to eat a thousand years.

 

II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up
  their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Chil-
  dren screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies!  Old
  men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Mo-
  loch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jail-
  house and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judg-
  ment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned govern-
  ments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running
  money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast 
  is a cannibal dynamo!  Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrap-
  ers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose
  factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and
  antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity
  and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
  whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the
  Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in
  Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness
  without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ec-
  stasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light stream-
  ing out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries!
  blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible mad houses
  granite cocks! monstrous bombs! 
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios,
  tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us! 
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American
  river! 
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive
  bullshit! 
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood!
  Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
  Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells!
  They bade farewell! They jumped off the roofl to solitude! waving! carrying
  flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Boy and His Dad
Edgar Guest, 1881 - 1959
A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
There is a glorious fellowship!
Father and son and the open sky
And the white clouds lazily drifting by,
And the laughing stream as it runs along
With the clicking reel like a martial song,
And the father teaching the youngster gay
How to land a fish in the sportsman's way.

I fancy I hear them talking there
In an open boat, and the speech is fair.
And the boy is learning the ways of men
From the finest man in his youthful ken.
Kings, to the youngster, cannot compare
With the gentle father who's with him there.
And the greatest mind of the human race
Not for one minute could take his place.

Which is happier, man or boy?
The soul of the father is steeped in joy,
For he's finding out, to his heart's delight,
That his son is fit for the future fight.
He is learning the glorious depths of him,
And the thoughts he thinks and his every whim;
And he shall discover, when night comes on,
How close he has grown to his little son.

A boy and his dad on a fishing-trip—
Builders of life's companionship!
Oh, I envy them, as I see them there
Under the sky in the open air,
For out of the old, old long-ago
Come the summer days that I used to know,
When I learned life's truths from my father's lips
As I shared the joy of his fishing-trips.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Dance
Humberto Ak'Abal
All of us dance
on a cent's edge.

The poor—because they are poor—
lose their step,
and fall

and everyone else
falls on top.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Dialect of a Skirt
Erica Miriam Fabri
The young girl wanted a new voice. After all, people got
new things every day. A new hip, a new nose, a new set
of suspenders. She adored the consonants that landed
like wooden shoes. She loved the type of L-sounds
that made a mouth drool from the back of the tongue
to the front. She practiced her new voice into seashells,
tin cans, caves. She gave her first performance quietly,
into the ear of her sleeping dog. She could tell by his snorting
that his dreams were of fat tree trunks and black, truffle-filled
soil. Later, she drove to the local gas station and used her new
voice to ask for a pack of cigarettes. She wasn't wearing a bra,
but the attendant didn't notice. He was too busy listening
to the way sound seemed to drip out of her mouth
as she said the word, Camel.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
If We Must Die
Claude McKay, 1889 - 1948
If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen!  We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Mosul
David Hernandez
The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart.
The caravan of dust. The cart made of plywood,
of crossbeam and junkyard tires. The donkey
made of donkey. The long face. The long ears.
The curled lashes. The obsidian eyes blinking
in the dust. The cart rolling, cracking the knuckles
of pebbles. The dust. The blanket over the cart.
The hidden mortar shells. The veins of wires.
The remote device. The red light. The donkey
trotting. The blue sky. The rolling cart. The dust
smudging the blue sky. The silent bell of the sun.
The Humvee. The soldiers. The dust-colored
uniforms. The boy from Montgomery, the boy
from Little Falls. The donkey cart approaching.
The dust. The laughter on their lips. The dust
on their lips. The moment before the moment.
The shockwave. The dust. The dust. The dust.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Majakovskiiiiiiij
Adriano Spatola
		for Julien & Giulia

(exordium)

this extreme dissolution systematically carried
to the limts of violence and up to the land of fire
up to the stagnant agitation in the rendering of rhythm
to the catastrophes of organisms in casual circumstances
inside the phagocytic cities in bodies encrusted with salt
under a bruised moon rolling across the pool table



(narratio)

with some enthusiasm but already flexible enough to confirm
everything to confirm her who loves insistently
that vegetates ramified in the pneumatic void of her story
the tactile prognosis the exceptional stupefying clarity
the domestic plague the fever expanding in the universe
with some enthusiasm but always flexible enough to confirm
everything to confirm her who loves insistently



(partitio)

every single word is now a tempest of gestures
a reflex of her rebellions or the pleasing shadows 
of the tree that put in motion frees itself of beetles
the tough web-footed the woody stimulus excited in the instruments
to open to emphasize in certain moments of the day
at the backs of animals hunted in the exploded spectacle
of hunted animals that slip into the material



(probatio)

a reflex of her rebellion the pleasing shadow 
that vegetates ramified in the pneumatic void of her story
the stagnant agitation in the rendering of rhythm
that vegetates in the pneumatic void of her story
with some enthusiasm but always flexible enough to confirm
with the tough web-footed the woody stimulus excites in the instruments



(repetitio)

digital memories still lacking in the composition
the marine assumption the partial gardens the liquid impulses
the catastrophes of organisms suspended in the universe
the castrated horses that waste time in deep caverns
under a bruised moon that rolls across the pool table
at the backs of animals hunted in the exploded spectacle
of hunted animals that slip into the material



(peroratio)

every single word has been a tempest of gestures
the tree put in motion has stripped itself of leaves
the leaf put in motion has stripped itself of fingers
the finger put in motion has stripped itself of horses
the horse put in motion has stripped itself of fingernails
ah the tactile prognosis ah the domestic plague
with some enthusiasm but everything variable enough to confirm
everything to confirm her who loves insistently
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Winter Trees
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
In Knowledge of Young Boys
Toi Derricotte, 1941
i knew you before you had a mother,
when you were newtlike, swimming,
a horrible brain in water.
i knew you when your connections
belonged only to yourself,
when you had no history
to hook on to,
barnacle,
when you had no sustenance of metal
when you had no boat to travel
when you stayed in the same
place, treading the question;
i knew you when you were all
eyes and a cocktail,
blank as the sky of a mind,
a root, neither ground nor placental;
not yet
red with the cut nor astonished
by pain, one terrible eye
open in the center of your head
to night, turning, and the stars
blinked like a cat. we swam
in the last trickle of champagne
before we knew breastmilk—we
shared the night of the closet,
the parasitic
closing on our thumbprint,
we were smudged in a yellow book.

son, we were oak without
mouth, uncut, we were
brave before memory.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard
Charles Wright, 1935
East of me, west of me, full summer.
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
                                         looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.

Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
                       I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
                  Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.

The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
                                           up from the damp grass.
Into the world's tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
from The Dogs
Joshua Marie Wilkinson
But the moths find you, phantom.

       & the crackle
       of the javelinas
       in the brush

       old litany
       defiled the doorling
       stood canon toting

So, you know the ground here? Where else 
is new or to you called unknown:

       gumtree tipping
       onto the marsh 
       meadow's shoreline

The apology wends off as smoke ground to 
gravel. So you were here alright, coughing 
on the live tape:

       a canoe's 
       mystery 
       hurt by its name

Fall back with your hands before or behind 
you just so.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Beagle or Something
April Bernard
The composer's name was Beagle or something,
one of those Brits who make the world wistful
with chorales and canticles and this piece,
a tone poem or what-have-you,
chimes and strings aswirl, dangerous for one
whose eye lids and sockets have been rashing from tears.
The music occupied the car where
I had parked and then sat, staring at
a tree, a smallish maple,
fire-gold and half-undone by the wind, 
shaking in itself,
shocking blue morning sky behind, and also
the trucks and telephone wires and dogs
and children late to school along Orange Street, but
it was the tree that caused an uproar,
it was the tree that shook and shed,
aureate as a shaken soul, I remembered
I was supposed to have one—for convenience

I placed it in my chest, the heart being away,
and now it seems the soul has lodged there, shaking,
golden-orange, half-spent but clanging
truer than Beagle music or my forehead pressed 
hard on the steering wheel in petition for release.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
My Brother's Mirror
Donald Platt
At eight years old my brother born with Down syndrome
		liked to shuffle
down the sidewalk holding our mother's hand mirror

		in which he'd watch
what was happening behind him.  What did he see so long ago?
		Me on a butterfly-handlebarred

bike, which he would never learn to ride, about to run him down,
		shouting, "Look out,
slow poke!  Make way, bird brain!  Think quick, fat tick!"

		I would swerve
around him at the last moment.  He gazed back at me with blank
		cow eyes and couldn't

speak.  He warbled like a sparrow, drooled, and went on
		looking
in his mirror.  Did he see the wind shake the lilacs

		by our neighbor's hedge
back and forth like handbells?  They kept ringing out their sweet
		invisible scent.

Peals of petals fell to the ground.  "Look harder, Michael,"
		I want to tell him now.
"Your namesake is an archangel.  Do you see Kathy, our beautiful

		babysitter, who will
kill herself years later with sleeping pills, waving her white dishtowel
		to call us home

to supper?"  She once caught me lying on the floor and trying
		to look up the dark folds
of her schoolgirl's wool skirt and slapped me.  But don't we all 

		walk forward, gazing backward 
over our shoulders at the future coming at us from the past like a hit-and-run
		driver?  Michael,

God's idiot angel, I see in your mirror our father
		yanking out
the plugs of all the TVs blaring the evening news

		on his nursing home's
locked ward for the demented.  He hates the noise, the CNN reporters
		in Bam, Iran,
 
covering yesterday's earthquake, 6.6 on the Richter scale,
		twelve seconds,
twenty-five thousand dead, thousands more buried alive

		beneath the rubble.
The aftershocks continue.  We get live footage of a woman in a purple
		shawl, sifting

through her gold-ringed fingers the crumbled concrete
		of what were once
the blue-tiled walls of her house.  She wails and keeps on

		digging.
This morning I dreamed that I was building an arch
		from pieces of charred 

brick I'd found in that debris.  It was complete except for
		the keystone,
but no brick would fit.  What I needed

		was our father
to put his splayed fingers into the fresh mortar where the keystone
		should have gone

and leave his handprints there, so I might put my palms to his.  
		Brother, I held your hand
for the first time last winter.  Your fingers were warm,

		rubbery.
The skin on the back of your hands was rough and chapped.
		They are the same fingers

that weave placemats from blue wool yarn every day,
		slowly passing
the shuttle over and under the warp, its strands stretched tight

		as the strings of a harp.
It's a silent slow music you make.  It takes you	
		weeks to weave

a single placemat.  Brother, you dropped the hand mirror.
		It cracked, but didn't
shatter.  It broke the seamless sky into countless

		jagged splinters,
but still holds the aspen's trembling leaves, the lilacs, you and me,
		all passing things.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Evasive Action
Charlie Smith, 1947
...the clip   ped possessive moment, the barber on his porch
cutting his son's hair, who looks for a second straight into the sun
and then back at his son's head now a golden, nodulous remnant,
a flower if he likes or Lenin's bumpy skull, he puts his scissors down
and goes inside and apologizes to his wife, who doesn't understand,
but who accepts his words like a private harvest she's storing up,
and then the son, who's going into the army, comes in, half cut,
and sees them and thinks he understands years of bickering,
but doesn't, and goes on to the battlefield where he writes his sister
saying we are not far from the truth of things, watching beyond his hand
two scorpions pick at each other, and thinks of days by the river, of his
father recovering from cancer, singing a song his grandmother memorized in Vienna 
and his father, who hated his own mother, cursing her, revoking the song,
and the next moment he's blown apart and then sent home in a metal coffin
and the parents and the sister get up early on the day of his funeral
and eat breakfast silently on the porch, and this is going on barber after barber.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Each year
Dora Malech
                  I snap the twig to try to trap
the springing and I relearn the same lesson.
You cannot make a keepsake of this season. 
Your heart's not the source of that sort of sap,
lacks what it takes to fuel, rejects the graft,
though for a moment it's your guilty fist 
that's flowering. You're no good host to this
extremity that points now, broken, back at
the dirt as if to ask are we there yet.
You flatter this small turn tip of a larger 
book of matches that can't refuse its end,
re-fuse itself, un-flare. Sure. Now forget
again. Here's a new green vein, another
clutch to take, give, a handful of seconds.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Abolition of Reality [Georges Seurat]
Adriano Spatola
Georges Seurat
Sunday Afternoon on the Island 
of Grande Jatte (1884-85)


The wonder the sense of lacquered objects
bolted measured tricked out in the clock
generous happy mature penance shadow
that the sun disbanded sews on the leaves
trousers hair parasols and gowns and gloves
anger drowns sighing the groan resounds
against the decorated and blank wall against the scale
unraveled dry whirlpool enameled Gongorism
congenital with thirst with gloomy astonishment
or wonder or the sense of lacquered objects.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Drench
Anne Stevenson
You sleep with a dream of summer weather,
wake to the thrum of rain—roped down by rain.
Nothing out there but drop-heavy feathers of grass  
and rainy air. The plastic table on the terrace
has shed three legs on its way to the garden fence.     
The mountains have had the sense to disappear.  
It's the Celtic temperament—wind, then torrents, then remorse.
Glory rising like a curtain over distant water.
Old stonehouse, having steered us through the dark,
docks in a pool of shadow all its own.
That widening crack in the gloom is like good luck.
Luck, which neither you nor tomorrow can depend on.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Peyote Poem [excerpt]
Michael McClure

Clear — the senses bright — sitting in the black chair — Rocker —
the white walls reflecting the color of clouds
moving over the sun. Intimacies! The rooms

not important — but like divisions of all space
of all hideousness and beauty. I hear
the music of myself and write it down

for no one to read. I pass fantasies as they
sing to me with Circe-Voices. I visit
among the peoples of myself and know all
I need to know.

I KNOW EVERYTHING! I PASS INTO THE ROOM

there is a golden bed radiating all light

the air is full of silver hangings and sheathes

I smile to myself. I know

all that there is to know. I see all there

is to feel. I am friendly with the ache
in my belly. The answer

to love is my voice. There is no Time!
No answers. The answer to feeling is my feeling.

The answer to joy is joy without feeling.
The room is a multicolored cherub
of air and bright colors. The pain in my stomach
is warm and tender. I am smiling. The pain
is many pointed, without anguish.

Light changes the room from yellows to violet!

The dark brown space behind the door is precious
intimate, silent and still. The birthplace
of Brahms. I know

all that I need to know. There is no hurry.

I read the meanings of scratched walls and cracked ceilings.

I am separate. I close my eyes in divinity and pain.

I blink in solemnity and unsolemn joy.

I smile at myself in my movements. Walking
I step higher in carefulness. I fill

space with myself. I see the secret and distinct
patterns of smoke from my mouth

I am without care part of all. Distinct.
I am separate from gloom and beauty. I see all.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Composition of the Text
Adriano Spatola
1
an adjective breathing the window open
the insertion's exact dimension in the rustling of pages
or see maybe how the text uses the body
see how the work is cosmic and biological and logical
in nocturnal voices in auroral explosions
in the croaking scratching scraping setting fire
here under the soft sky sticking all over the fingers
words that speak

2
he turns to the night cries out to it from the window
to slow down or existence is the circle is the space
is rhythmic swinging harpoon that brushes the lips
bronze gestures darkroom a stain left by the water
framed frozen hypocritical face dust hypnosis
see but how negation modifies the text
with possible words with impossible words

3
but the text is a living object furnished with keys
the crude resection its effect the incredible osmosis
this is the moment you wait for start cutting
see how it stretches and swells it's ready to burst
it's the young anaconda biting its own tail dragging 
odor of marshes odor coined from the breath of swamps
a book a notebook a pen a painless desire
without words

4
tired now he becomes aware of his own purposes
it's not difficult to try various tests various experiments
improbable preparations for a voyage by now certain
you too let yourself become sterile don't throw open the door
untreatable eczema the stamped meat the ruins the slaughterhouse
in the text everything accumulates everything melts into vapor
remember it's late remember it's time to go to say goodbye
with a few careful innocuous words

5
after the first beats the material becomes insensible
or sensible uncertain private risky privileged declension
in terms of organic functions or malfunctions
or in terms of chipped awkward monodical alternatives
see at this point how the text begins to miss the beat
the refusal is to b lame you begin with the same refusal as before
but you will accept whatever other duty entrusted to you
that has no need of words

6
it's incoherent it's undetermined his sickness has no purpose
now that we are in the text the fixtures appear to subside
a noun is an excess of coughing the beginning of hysteria
the vulgar embellishment the shears dripping with blood
without falcons without promises without hunting horns without catharsis
the woods are full of fragile docile stupid victims
the woods are full of love and how it hates love 
this word

7
before long in the text the final part will have begun
catalog of mannerisms and of rapes song and narcoses
marking on the calendar with a pencil the delivery date
a verb is the parasite the narcissus the rage beneath the skin
but see how the machine masticates and bubbles and heats up
the music rises the hand corrects the lights go down low
the head even lower open your arms wide don't shut your eyes
cancel that word
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Alamogordo 1945
Adriano Spatola
1
in my father's tomb the gods have been buried for millennia
in Crete Mycenae Mexico or Babylon
and your task, young ephebe, is radically changed
we're not talking about singing in chorus by the light of the moon
nor pretending to the warmth of a bonfire shepherding a metallic herd
we're talking about carefully observing and staying ready
because from one moment to the next our father's tomb will break open
and one shadow will move over the earth with the force of the lord
who first made it possible
who will destroy it in an embrace

2
the wound inflicted on the earth slowly heals
the outraged generation dallies by the shores of Guadalcanal
drinking vodka in Leningrad and whiskey in Piazzale Michelangelo
playing jazz on the West Coast
all this is very important
all this must be remembered

3
A.S. from Diaries (London, British Museum)
for days I was in the dark
one night I suddenly opened the window over the piazza:
the sun was rising
(sun)
and humans? they prayed stretched out under delicate automobiles
while sewer grates sucked down the already blind children
ah said the imploring enemies
the angels grappling fire ladders dismantled the clocks on gothic spires
telling the vengeance of time upon human hours
the escape hatches were all already shut
history lay in my bed with legs wide open
although I was innocent like the rest

4
in the desert temple laboratory
restless children prepare the definitive version
tempted the last time by the fruit of knowledge
in your womb they deposit the ovum to be fertilized
the altar of sacred embrace is the metallic tower
of the disinfected cavity introduced into your body
what can a poet do but cultivate warts on his face
you will see the air taste the fire touch the light
mother earth created from our ambiguous love

5
and repeating the creation myth
throwing men over one's shoulder so that they become stones
the priest implores the divine seed (energy)
(sun) semen encephalon of every living form
time (fire) divine cause (vis viva) amoeba eternal splitting of its nucleus
universes burned and recreated—manifold in the unity of repetition (actus)
(energy) matter assumed into the city of god
constant polium of every protoplasm
lord of the negative and the positive of the numerator and the denominator of the part and the whole
(ovum) a click will be enough to proliferate
(semen) fertilization (fission) in your body you will conceive
(the nuclei will have a total mass inferior to its origin)
fission fertilization human hands reproduce god (the ovum splits)
air fire light (sun that they adore)

6
he fixes the season lets his voice loose among the clouds makes lightening shine over the earth
your and our destiny mother earth
here is the orgasm of Shamash the victory of time
when the universe's love will explode
and the son of the sun will set his chained roots on the tower of Babylon
when your belly will be rent by divine coitus
and the trees will crack under the solar rain
umén, uménaion, umén or uménai or
all his strength in you
and eros and thanatos the right and the left eye of his eternity
confused in his one flashing glance

7
although your name may only be written backwards 
immanent not transitive cause
wearily we gave ourselves to reconstruction
so that violence would find new matter to feed upon
a thousand times we destroyed stone with fire and with stone suffocated fire
but now the eternal river uproots the dam of history
spreads across the plain bringing you nothingness
you who forced the first being to divide in order to renew the species
while in him you sank softly like a stone in the mud
and readied the inexorable fulfillment of the most unjust justice
I have begotten in vain
because the umbilical chord is the way taken by this your scorching parasite to infect the son after the mother
they hang themselves from dead trunks who with a kiss betray the human race
I seated in the midst of an overflowing river
are those my brothers, down there, those I see evacuating?
I count the corpses that follow the current down to the sea
I ask myself what orchards will they fertilize
because this is the demonstrable necessity
lighting a dead man's breath to light your way
as for the cow trying out-of-breath to climb back up the steep bank slippery with muck
I have known the bovine god from since he visited the sacred prostitutes, over in Thebes
I am that mummy in the Louvre (radioactive)
it would vain to sprinkle grain in my eye-sockets
or to eat of my flesh—touched by god
next to me the serpent's sawdust awakens
and the undeciphered inscription found in Assyrian halls speaks
as the two-headed fetus floats knocking against the crystal vase vibrating in alcohol
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Drop fell on the Apple Tree (794)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
A Drop fell on the Apple Tree -
Another - on the Roof -
A Half a Dozen kissed the Eaves -
And made the Gables laugh -

A few went out to help the Brook
That went to help the Sea -
Myself Conjectured were they Pearls -
What Necklaces could be -

The Dust replaced, in Hoisted Roads -
The Birds jocoser sung -
The Sunshine threw his Hat away -
The Bushes - spangles flung -

The Breezes brought dejected Lutes -
And bathed them in the Glee -
The Orient showed a single Flag,
And signed the fête away -
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Talking About New Orleans
Jayne Cortez, 1934 - 2012
Talking about New Orleans
About deforestation & the flood of vodun paraphernalia
the Congo line losing its Congo
the funeral bands losing their funding
the killer winds humming intertribal warfare hums into
two storm-surges
touching down tonguing the ground
three thousand times in a circle of grief
four thousand times on a levee of lips
five thousand times between a fema of fangs
everything fiendish, fetid, funky, swollen, overheated
and splashed with blood & guts & drops of urinated gin
			     in syncopation with me
riding through on a refrigerator covered with
asphalt chips with pieces of ragtime music charts
torn photo mug shots & pulverized turtle shells from Biloxi
		     me bumping against a million-dollar oil rig
me in a ghost town floating on a river on top of a river
	     me with a hundred ton of crab legs
	     	     and no evacuation plan
me in a battered tree barking & howling with abandoned dogs
my cheeks stained with dried suicide kisses
my isolation rising with a rainbow of human corpse &  
     			     fecal rat bones
where is that fire chief in his big hat
where are the fucking pumps
the rescue boats
& the famous coalition of bullhorns calling out names
	    hey     I want my red life jacket now
& I need some sacred sandbags
some fix-the-levee-powder
some blood-pressure-support-juice
some get-it-together-dust
some lucky-rooftop-charms &
some magic-helicopter-blades
I'm not prepared
to live on the bottom of the water like Oshun
I don't have a house built on stilts
I can't cross the sea like Olokun
I'm not equipped to walk on water like Marie Laveau
or swim away from a Titanic situation like Mr. Shine
Send in those paddling engineers
I'm inside of my insides
& I need to distinguish
between the nightmare, the mirage,
the dream and the hallucination
Give me statistics
how many residents died while waiting
how many drowned
how many suffocated
how many were dehydrated
how many were separated
how many are missing
how many had babies
and anyway
who's in charge of this confusion
this gulf coast engulfment
this displacement
this superdome shelter
this stench of stank
this demolition order
this crowded convention center chaos
making me crave solitary confinement

Am I on my own
exhausted from fighting racist policies
exhausted from fighting off sex offenders
exhausted from fighting for cots for tents for trailers
for a way out of this anxiety  this fear  this emptiness
this avoidance  this unequal opportunity world of
disappointments accumulating in my undocumented eye
of no return tickets

Is this freedom  is this global warming  is this the new identity
me riding on a refrigerator through contaminated debris
talking to no one in particular
about a storm that became a hurricane
& a hurricane that got violent and started
eyeballing & whistling & stretching toward
a category three domination that caught me in
	     the numbness of my own consciousness
	        unprepared, unprotected and
	           made more vulnerable to destabilization
by the corporate installation of human greed, human poverty
human invention of racism & human neglect of the environment

I mean even Buddy Bolden came back to say
	     move to higher ground
	       because a hurricane will not
	           rearrange its creativity for you
& the river will meet the ocean in
	    	     the lake of your flesh again
so move to higher ground
and let your jungle find its new defense
let the smell of your wisdom restore the power of pure air
& let your intoxicated shoreline rumble above & beyond the
water-marks of disaster

I'm speaking of New Orleans of deportation
of belching bulldozers   of poisonous snakes
of bruised bodies   of instability and madness
mechanism of indifference and process of elimination
I'm talking about transformation about death re-entering life with
Bonne chance, bon ton roulé, bonjour & bonne vie in New Orleans, bon
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Paradise on Black Ice
Patrick Donnelly

            Heaven hunts round for those that find itself below, and then it snatches.
                        —Emily Dickinson
 

I wind
the sheet of elegy

while he's still alive, I can't help it,
I follow his breath while he sleeps,

greet each coming and going,
with an Ave.
                  (Because of how
the quick
become the dead.)

But right now he's showering
with a gospel choir, radio

half on and half off that station.
And today's heaven is half hell,

half whole, half hurt,
hunting every naked thing

with the same harsh delight.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Wolf's Postscript to 'Little Red Riding Hood'
Agha Shahid Ali, 1949 - 2001
First, grant me my sense of history:
I did it for posterity,
for kindergarten teachers
and a clear moral:
Little girls shouldn't wander off
in search of strange flowers,
and they mustn't speak to strangers.

And then grant me my generous sense of plot:
Couldn't I have gobbled her up
right there in the jungle?
Why did I ask her where her grandma lived?
As if I, a forest-dweller,
didn't know of the cottage
under the three oak trees
and the old woman lived there
all alone?
As if I couldn't have swallowed her years before?

And you may call me the Big Bad Wolf,
now my only reputation.
But I was no child-molester
though you'll agree she was pretty.

And the huntsman:
Was I sleeping while he snipped
my thick black fur
and filled me with garbage and stones?
I ran with that weight and fell down,
simply so children could laugh
at the noise of the stones
cutting through my belly,
at the garbage spilling out
with a perfect sense of timing,
just when the tale
should have come to an end.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Paul's Tattoo
Mark Doty, 1953

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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What Was Told, That
Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207 - 1273
What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest. 

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane, 

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Tiny Clay Doll with No Arms
Ray Gonzalez
Given to me by my sister as a gift,
the tiny Indian doll stands with no arms.

Given to me so I can raise my hands 
and stop the world from coming closer.

Something has been taken from here--
a day when reaching out was death.

Something lost
with my own hands.

The doll stands three inches tall, 
its brown head wrapped in a red scarf.

No arms, as if I could look at a body 
and not welcome it back.

As if I knew what happened
to my grip on those things.

The clay doll stands on my bookshe1f.
It stares out the window.

It does not have any arms.
I don't know why it was carved that way,

don't know what it means,
why the invisible palms hold everything.

When I touch it with a fingertip,
it leans against a book.

It does not fall.
When I set it back

on its bare feet,
I carefully use both hands.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
corydon & alexis, redux
D. A. Powell, 1963
and yet we think that song outlasts us all:  wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god's own ribs



what else but to linger in the slight shade of those sapling branches
yearning for that vernal beau.   for don't birds covet the seeds of the honey locust
and doesn't the ewe have a nose for wet filaree and slender oats foraged in the meadow
kit foxes crave the blacktailed hare:  how this longing grabs me by the nape



guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I'd ask myself, that guy with the sideburns and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I'd expire with him on my tongue



silly poet, silly man:  thought I could master nature like a misguided preacher
as if banishing love is a fix.   as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy eyes
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
deer & salt block
Joshua Marie Wilkinson

One boy is a liar & says there's a block of salt under his bed to draw deer in from the orchard. One boy says the pantry wall will open if you say an untold anagram of his name. One boy is already dressed when he wakes up for his young father's wedding. One boy hides a turtle from his brothers in a dresser drawer. One boy is mute & sluggish from the hurricane sirens. One boy took a long time in the bathtub reading the comics. One boy loops a tractor chain to the ceiling fan & tears the whole roof down. One boy speaks through a keyhole to the others about a shortstop's hex. One boy can't stand the scent of elevators. One boy gives different spellings for his name each week at school. That same boy stole his teacher's shoe. Another boy listens to a radio inside his pillowcase. One boy drinks coffee alone in the zookeeper's shed. The last boy casts a purple stone to the bottom of a pond & follows it down with his church clothes on.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
On the Waterfront
B. H. Fairchild
—know thyself

Flashlight in hand, I stand just inside the door
in my starched white shirt, red jacket nailed shut
by six gold buttons, and a plastic black bowtie,
a sort of smaller movie screen reflecting back
the larger one. Is that really you? says Mrs. Pierce,
my Latin teacher, as I lead her to her seat
between the Neiderlands, our neighbors, and Mickey Breen,
who owns the liquor store.  Walking back, I see
their faces bright and childlike in the mirrored glare
of a tragic winter New York sky.  I know them all,
these small-town worried faces, these natives of the known,
the real, a highway and brown fields, and New York
is a foreign land—the waterfront, unions, priests,
the tugboat's moan—exotic as Siam or Casablanca.
I have seen this movie seven times, memorized the lines:
Edie, raised by nuns, pleading—praying, really—
Isn't everyone a part of everybody else?
and Terry, angry, stunned with guilt, Quit worrying
about the truth.  Worry about yourself, while I,
in this one-movie Kansas town where everyone
is a part of everybody else, am waiting darkly
for a self to worry over, a name, a place,
New York, on 52nd Street between the Five Spot
and Jimmy Ryan's where bebop and blue neon lights
would fill my room and I would wear a porkpie hat
and play tenor saxophone like Lester Young, but now,
however, I am lost, and Edie, too, and Charlie,
Father Barry, Pop, even Terry because he worried
more about the truth than he did about himself,
and I scan the little mounds of bodies now lost even
to themselves as the movie rushes to its end,
car lights winging down an alley, quick shadows
fluttering across this East River of familiar faces
like storm clouds cluttering a wheat field or geese
in autumn plowing through the sun, that honking,
that moan of a boat in fog.  I walk outside
to cop a smoke, I could have been a contender, 
I could have been somebody instead of who I am,
and look across the street at the Army-Navy store
where we would try on gas masks, and Elmer Fox
would let us hold the Purple Hearts, but it's over now,
and they are leaving, Goodnight, Mr. Neiderland,
Goodnight, Mrs. Neiderland, Goodnight, Mick, Goodnight,
Mrs. Pierce, as she, a woman who has lived alone
for forty years and for two of those has suffered through
my botched translations from the Latin tongue, smiles,
Nosce te ipsum, and I have no idea what she means.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Vision from the Blue Plane-Window
Ernesto Cardenal
In the round little window, everything is blue,
land bluish, blue-green, blue
				(and sky)
	everything is blue
blue lakes and lagoons
			blue volcanoes
while farther off the land looks bluer
	blue islands in a blue lake.
This is the face of the land liberated.
And where all the people fought, I think:
						for love!
To live without the hatred
				of exploitation.
To love one another in a beautiful land
so beautiful, not only in itself
			but because of the people in it,
above all because of the people in it.
That's why God gave us this beautiful land
for the society in it.
And in all those blue places they fought, suffered
			for a society of love
				here in this land.

One patch of blue looks more intense...
And I thought I was seeing the sites of all the battles there,
and of all the deaths,
behind that small, round windowpane
						blue
					all the shades of blue.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Queen-Anne's-Lace
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand's span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
or nothing.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Cameo One
Michael McClure

WE HAVE GONE
GONE. GONE
in the hole where
soul swells
into
nothing
leaving solid space
where profiles
of gods and fairies
are carved
and
finely
polished
by the clanking of trucks,
thunder-shaking
waves,
and the taste of mangos.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Delta Flight 659
Denise Duhamel, 1961
—to Sean Penn

I'm writing this on a plane, Sean Penn,
with my black Pilot Razor ballpoint pen.
Ever since 9/11, I'm a nervous flyer. I leave my Pentium
Processor in Florida so TSA can't x-ray my stanzas, penetrate
my persona. Maybe this should be in iambic pentameter,
rather than this mock sestina, each line ending in a Penn

variant. I convinced myself the ticket to Baghdad was too expensive.
I contemplated going as a human shield. I read, in open-
mouthed shock, that your trip there was a $56,000 expenditure.
Is that true? I watched you on Larry King Live—his suspenders
and tie, your open collar. You saw the war's impending
mess. My husband gambled on my penumbra

of doubt. So you station yourself at a food silo in Iraq. What happens
to me if you get blown up? He begged me to stay home, be his Penelope.
I sit alone in coach, but last night I sat with four poets, depending
on one another as readers, in a Pittsburgh café. I tried to be your pen
pal in 1987, not because of your pensive
bad boy looks, but because of a poem you'd penned

that appeared in an issue of Frank. I still see the poet in you, Sean Penn.
You probably think fans like me are your penance
for your popularity, your star bulging into a pentagon
filled with witchy wanna-bes and penniless
poets who waddle toward your icy peninsula
of glamour like so many menacing penguins.

But honest, I come in peace, Sean Penn,
writing on my plane ride home. I want no part of your penthouse
or the snowy slopes of your Aspen.
I won't stalk you like the swirling grime cloud over Pig Pen.
I have no script or stupendous
novel I want you to option. I even like your wife, Robin Wright Penn.

I only want to keep myself busy on this flight, to tell you of four penny-
loafered poets in Pennsylvania
who, last night, chomping on primavera penne
pasta, pondered poetry, celebrity, Iraq, the penitentiary
of free speech. And how I reminded everyone that Sean Penn
once wrote a poem. I peer out the window, caress my lucky pendant:

Look, Sean Penn, the clouds are drawn with charcoal pencils.
The sky is opening like a child's first stab at penmanship.
The sun begins to ripen orange, then deepen. 
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Adjectives of Order
Alexandra Teague
That summer, she had a student who was obsessed 
with the order of adjectives. A soldier in the South 
Vietnamese army, he had been taken prisoner when 

Saigon fell. He wanted to know why the order 
could not be altered. The sweltering city streets shook
with rockets and helicopters. The city sweltering 

streets. On the dusty brown field of the chalkboard, 
she wrote: The mother took warm homemade bread 
from the oven. City is essential to streets as homemade 

is essential to bread . He copied this down, but 
he wanted to know if his brothers were lost  before 
older, if he worked security at a twenty-story modern

downtown bank or downtown twenty-story modern.
When he first arrived, he did not know enough English 
to order a sandwich. He asked her to explain each part 

of Lovely big rectangular old red English Catholic
leather Bible. Evaluation before size. Age before color. 
Nationality before religion. Time before length. Adding 

and, one could determine if two adjectives were equal. 
After Saigon fell, he had survived nine long years 
of torture. Nine and long. He knew no other way to say this.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Beginning with Two Lines from Rexroth
Ray Gonzalez

I see the unwritten books, the unrecorded experiments, the unpainted pictures, the interrupted lives, a staircase leading to a guarantee, the glowing frame of wisdom protecting me from harm after I escape the questions of a lifetime. I see the turning of the pages in a book I have not read, its story proclaiming the reader is going to escape without knowing how the equation injured the moment—sacred leaves rotting in a bottle of rubbing oil, their black designs sinking farther than my reach.

I witness what is made for someone else, its motion calling me to wait for the regions of love where we come back, able to dismiss the picture of ourselves where we can't smile because no one is able to capture time that has not happened and never will. There is no agony and waste, only the steps into the frontier where it is easy to hide.

Even a shoulder bone cracks in the morning light, a man rising at the end of a century where everyone gives him pictures, including one of a translucent scene where the running youth carries the host, his confusion between danger and desire making the boy stop at the bank of the river, turn, and go home. When he gets to the house, he doesn't cry out. When it goes dark and the arguments begin, it is his portrait that is handed to me first because I already arrived at the junction between the lamp and the staircase to the mocking stars.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Transit of Venus
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who's just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in electromagnetic loops, rhubarb, rhubarb, the din increases.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Kelp
Jeffrey Yang
How easy it is to lose oneself
in a kelp forest. Between 
canopy leaves, sunlight filters thru 
the water surface; nutrients
bring life where there'd other-
wise be barren sea; a vast eco-
system breathes. Each 
being being 
being's link.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
My Papa's Waltz
Theodore Roethke, 1908 - 1963

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Feeling of AND, a Feeling of OR
Sherod Santos, 1948
The window in mid-summer raised, and where 
the screen intersects with the frame, a web of circular 
tensile silks radiating outward from the central lair 
where a yellow spiny-backed spider waits, its six 
thorn spurs protruding rose-like from its abdomen, 
its casing imprinted with a wax seal ring. Attached 
to the foundation lines, clusters of white cottony tufts, 
lures, I suppose, for insects, and suspended 
from a single thread, a much smaller egg-shaped 
spider (the male?) swaying imperceptibly in the air: 
an image from childhood that reminds me of "childhood," 
a word that so often crosses my mind that it long ago 
ceased to mean anything other than a period of time 
when things occurred not to me so much as him, 
and all of them linked only by AND. As in the span 
of a single moment, the afternoon after the all-clear 
when the sun rose on a bloated, fly-stung pygmy goat 
in a gravel slough he crossed to wave to a woman 
with a Red Cross band on her arm. AND: the red 
pinball bumper cap ("5000 when lit") in a tented 
arcade on Brighton Pier when he was twelve.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Novel
Arthur Rimbaud, 1854 - 1891
I.

No one's serious at seventeen.
--On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
--You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds--the town is near--
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

--Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
--And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide, 
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
--And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
--Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
--No one's serious at seventeen 
When lindens line the promenade.

29 September 1870

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Love Song
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
Yet—
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Heavily
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder
A. E. Housman, 1859 - 1936
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
  He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
  And went with half my life about my ways.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Be Near Me
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1911 - 1984
Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
                                             with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
                                             of inconsolable children
                      who, though you try with all your heart,
                                             cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
                                             dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
I Sing the Body Electric
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892

1

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul? And if the body
were not the soul, what is the soul?

 
2

The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself
     balks account, 
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.

The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
     his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
     and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.

The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
     folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
     contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through
     the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls
     silently to and from the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the
     horse-man in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open
     dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer's daughter in the garden or
     cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six
     horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
     good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown
     after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
     muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
     suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv'd
     neck and the counting;
Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's
     breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
     the firemen, and pause, listen, count.

 
3

I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.

This man was a wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
     beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness
     and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were
     massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal
     love,
He drank water only, the blood show'd like scarlet through the
     clear-brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail'd his boat himself, he
     had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had
     fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
     you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
     the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
     by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.

 
4

I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round
     his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? 
I do not ask any more delight, I
     swim in it as in a sea. 
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them,
     and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.

 
5

This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction, 
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor,
     all falls aside but myself and it, 
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what
     was expected of heaven or fear'd of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response
     likewise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all
     diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling
     and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
     love, white-blow and delirious nice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the
     prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.

This the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, man is born
     of woman,
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the
     outlet again.

Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
     exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.

The female contains all qualities and tempers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil'd, she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
     daughters.

As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness,
     sanity, beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.

 
6

The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
     utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to
     the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes
     soundings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)

The man's body is sacred and the woman's body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred--is it the meanest one in the
     laborers' gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as
     much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.

(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)

Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has
     no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and
     the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?

 
7

A man's body at auction,
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.

Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.

In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized
     arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings,
     aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in
     parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers
     in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.

How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
     through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
     back through the centuries?)

 
8

A woman's body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and
     times all over the earth?

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful
     than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
     that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves. 

 
9

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
     nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
     soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and
     that they are my poems,
Man's, woman's, child, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's,
     father's, young man's, young woman's poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
     sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the
     jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
    ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
     finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body
     or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
     love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
     tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
     meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
     toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
     marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
     the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Bodyweight
Matthew Schwartz
My crutches felt heavier than I was.
They landed with a thick thud on the blacktop
each time I took a step. I had to watch how I walked

so I didn’t fall, like the other kids expected.
I liked to leave my crutches half-buried
behind the sandbox, where I couldn’t see them,

and creep up the uneven monkey bars
arced like the upper half of a globe.
I wanted to see the whole playground.

The rungs crowded too close together,
and none of them was shaped the same.
I lifted my feet slowly to keep my braces quiet

against the metal. At the top, I could still hear
the jump rope flying, my friend throwing
handfuls of sand. I slipped. I locked my arms

tighter around whatever bars I could reach, and my leg
tensed and shook and hit the rung too close to me
when I tried going down, and my foot shot

through the gap, and dangled there.
I thought I could maybe slide out.
I thought my body could fit like my foot did,

but I was stuck. Everyone could see me,
everyone could hear me asking myself
What do I do with my body if it’s

not a secret?
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Danse Russe
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
At the Gym
Mark Doty, 1953
This salt-stain spot
marks the place where men
lay down their heads,
back to the bench,

and hoist nothing
that need be lifted
but some burden they've chosen
this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove
of it leaving, collectively,
this sign of where we've been:
shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the vinyl
where we push something
unyielding skyward,
gaining some power

at least over flesh,
which goads with desire,
and terrifies with frailty.
Who could say who's

added his heat to the nimbus
of our intent, here where
we make ourselves:
something difficult

lifted, pressed or curled,
Power over beauty,
power over power!
Though there's something more

tender, beneath our vanity,
our will to become objects
of desire: we sweat the mark
of our presence onto the cloth.

Here is some halo
the living made together.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Embrace
Mark Doty, 1953
You weren't well or really ill yet either;
just a little tired, your handsomeness
tinged by grief or anticipation, which brought
to your face a thoughtful, deepening grace.

I didn't for a moment doubt you were dead.
I knew that to be true still, even in the dream.
You'd been out--at work maybe?--
having a good day, almost energetic.

We seemed to be moving from some old house
where we'd lived, boxes everywhere, things
in disarray: that was the story of my dream,
but even asleep I was shocked out of the narrative

by your face, the physical fact of your face:
inches from mine, smooth-shaven, loving, alert.
Why so difficult, remembering the actual look
of you? Without a photograph, without strain?

So when I saw your unguarded, reliable face,
your unmistakable gaze opening all the warmth
and clarity of you--warm brown tea--we held
each other for the time the dream allowed.

Bless you. You came back, so I could see you
once more, plainly, so I could rest against you
without thinking this happiness lessened anything,
without thinking you were alive again.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Hellish Night
Arthur Rimbaud, 1854 - 1891

I've swallowed a terrific mouthful of poison.—Blessings three times over on the impulse that came to me!—My guts are on fire. The poison's violence twists my limbs, deforms me, knocks me down. I'm dyng of thirst, I'm choking, I can't scream. It's hell, endless pain! Look how the fire flashes up! I'm burning nicely. Go on, demon!

I'd caught a glimpse of conversion to goodness and happiness, salvation. Can I describe the vision? Hell's atmosphere won't suffer hymns! There were millions of charming people, a sweet spiritual concert, strength and peace, noble ambitions, who knows?

Noble ambitions!

And this is still life!— What if damnation's everlasting! A man who wants to mutilate himself is pretty well damned, right? I think I'm in hell, therefore I am. It's the catechism come true. I'm the slave of my baptism. Parents, you've created my tortures and yours.—Poor nitwit! Hell can't wield power over pagans.— This is still life! Later on, the delights of damnation will be much deeper. A crime, quick, so I can plunge into nothingness in accordance with human law.

Shut up, will you shut up. .. ! There's disgrace and reproaches here—Satan who says the fire's contemptible, who says my temper's desperately silly.— Enough. .. ! Errors they're whispering to me, magic, misleading perfumes, childish music.—And to think I'm dealing in truth, I'm looking at justice: my reasoning powers are sane and sound, I'm ready for perfection. .. Pride.—My scalp is drying up. Help! Lord, I'm scared. I'm thirsty, so thirsty! O childhood, the grass, the rain, the lake water on stones, the moonlight when the hell struck twelve. . . . The devil's in the tower right now. Mary! Holy Virgin. . . !— Loathing for my blunder.

Out there, aren't those virtuous souls who are wishing me well. . . ? Come.. .. I've got a pillow over my mouth, they won't hear me, they're ghosts. Besides, no one ever thinks of others. Don't come near me. I smell of heresy, that's for sure.

No end to these hallucinations. It's exactly what I've always known: no more faith in history, principles forgotten. I'll keep quiet: poets and visionaries would be jealous. I'm a thousand times richer, let's be miserly like the sea.

Well now! the clock of life stopped a few minutes ago. I'm not in the world any more.— Theology's a serious thing, hell is certainly way down—and heaven's above.—Ecstasy, nightmare, sleep in a nest of flames.

How malicious one's outlook in the country. . . Satan—Old Scratch——goes running around with the wild grain. . . Jesus is walking on the blackberry bushes without bending them. .. Jesus used to walk on troubled waters. The lantern revealed him to us, standing, pale with long brownish hair, on the crest of an emerald wave. . . .

I'm going to unveil all the mysteries: religious mysteries or natural, death, birth, future, past, cosmogony, nothingness. I'm a master of hal— lucinations.

Listen...!

I've got all the talents!— There's no one here and there's someone: I wouldn't want to waste my treasure.—Do you want nigger songs, houri dances? Do you want me to disappear, to dive down for the ring? Do you want that? I'm going to make gold. . . remedies.

Then have faith in me, faith is soothing, it guides, it cures. Come, all of you—even the little children—and I'll comfort you, I'll spill out my heart for you,—the marvelous heart!—Poor men, workers! I don't ask for your prayers. With your trust alone, I'll be happy.

—And what about me? All of this doesn't make me miss the world much. I'm lucky not to suffer more. My life was nothing but lovely mistakes, it's too bad.

Bah! let's make every possible ugly face.

We're out of the world, for sure. Not even a sound. My touch has disappeared. Ah, my castle, my Saxony, my willow woods. Evenings, mornings, nights, days. . . I'm worn out!

I should have my hell for anger, my hell for conceit—and the hell of caresses: a concert of hells.

I'm dying of tiredness. It's the grave, horror of horrors, I'm going to the worms! Satan, you joker, you want to melt me down with your charms. I demand it, I demand it! a poke of the pitchfork, a drop of fire. Ah, to come back to life again! To feast my eyes on our deformities.

And that poison, that kiss a thousand times damned! My weakness, the world's cruelty! My God, mercy, hide me, I always misbehave!—I'm hidden and then again I'm not.

It's the fire flaring up again with its damned!

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Out, Out–
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them "Supper." At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A child said, What is the grass?
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
	hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
	is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
	green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
	may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
	of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
	zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the 
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
	from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
	mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
	for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
	and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
	taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
	children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
	at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
	luckier.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
When You are Old
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
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.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Season in Hell
Arthur Rimbaud, 1854 - 1891

A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.

One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up.

I armed myself against justice.

I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure's been turned over to you!

I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind. I pounced on every joy like a ferocious animal eager to strangle it.

I called for executioners so that, while dying, I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called for plagues to choke me with sand, with blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched out in the muck. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played tricks on insanity.

And Spring brought me the frightening laugh of the idiot.

So, just recently, when I found myself on the brink of the final squawk! it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.

Charity is that key.—This inspiration proves I was dreaming!

"You'll always be a hyena etc. . . ," yells the devil, who'd crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Deserve death with all your appetites, your selfishness, and all the capital sins!"

Ah! I've been through too much:-But, sweet Satan, I beg of you, a less blazing eye! and while waiting for the new little cowardly gestures yet to come, since you like an absence of descriptive or didactic skills in a writer, let me rip out these few ghastly pages from my notebook of the damned.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Hug
Thom Gunn, 1929 - 2004

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
        Who'd showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
        Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug, 
        Suddenly, from behind, 
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
        Your instep to my heel,
    My shoulder-blades against your chest.
    It was not sex, but I could feel
    The whole strength of your body set,
           Or braced, to mine,
        And locking me to you
    As if we were still twenty-two
    When our grand passion had not yet
        Become familial.
    My quick sleep had deleted all 
    Of intervening time and place.
        I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Daffy Duck In Hollywood
John Ashbery, 1927
Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy
Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile
Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged
Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis
Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
Fling Terrace. He promised he'd get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's 
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit
Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call
Companionable. But everything is getting choked to the point of
Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically--
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover. Suddenly all is
Loathing. I don't want to go back inside any more. You meet
Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no,
Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings,
The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of 
   happy-go-nutty
Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little
White cardboard castle over the mill run. "Up
The lazy river, how happy we could be?"
How will it end? That geranium glow
Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the
Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into
A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner
(Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts
The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis
Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight 
   micturition spree
On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little
Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie
Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes. Wait!
I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering, 
Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles
And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore) 
   leads to Tophet, that
Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which
Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin
Of a borborygmic giant who even now
Is rolling over on us in his sleep. Farewell bocages,
Tanneries, water-meadows. The allegory comes unsnarled
Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is 
About all there is to be noted between tornadoes. I have
Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live
Which is like thinking in another language. Everything
Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me.
That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times"
Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in 
Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should.
Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them
We live in one dimension, they in ours. While I
Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek
Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its 
Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions
At each new parting of the ways. Pastel
Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals.
"It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing
Stands alone. What happened to creative evolution?"
Sighed Aglavaine. Then to her Sélysette: "If his
Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others, 
What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once?
I have to stay here while they sit in there,
Laugh, drink, have fine time. In my day
One lay under the tough green leaves,
Pretending not to notice how they bled into
The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed
Not to concern us. And so we too
Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance,
Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically
Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then
Grew taciturn by previous agreement. We were spirited 
Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark.
It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness
Of the finished product. True, to ask less were folly, yet
If he is the result of himself, how much the better 
For him we ought to be! And how little, finally, 
We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin
Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our 
Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this,
Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves
Has been applauded in London and St. Petersburg. Somewhere
Ravens pray for us." The storm finished brewing. And thus
She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none
She found who ever heard of Amadis,
Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love. Some
They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all
By definition is completeness (so
In utter darkness they reasoned), why not
Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when
Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal
A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps
The pattern that may carry the sense, but
Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination. 
Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's
Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces
The change as we would greet the change itself. 
All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny
Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the 
Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage
Shrouds our sense of it. Therefore bivouac we 
On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by
Veiled scruples, worn conundrums. Morning is
Impermanent. Grab sex things, swing up
Over the horizon like a boy
On a fishing expedition. No one really knows
Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts
Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's
The tradition more than the safekeeping of it. This mulch for
Play keeps them interested and busy while the big,
Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what
Model cities, how much waste space. Life, our
Life anyway, is between. We don't mind 
Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot
One, but have our earnest where it chances on us, 
Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more,
Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Buddhist Barbie
Denise Duhamel, 1961
In the 5th century B.C.
an Indian philosopher
Gautama teaches "All is emptiness" 
and "There is no self." 
In the 20th century A.D.
Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man 
with such a belly could pose, 
smiling, and without a shirt.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
If My Voice Is Not Reaching You
Afzal Ahmed Syed

     If my voice is not reaching you
     add to it the echo—
     echo of ancient epics

     And to that—
     a princess

     And to the princess—your beauty

     And to your beauty—
     a lover's heart

     And in the lover's heart
     a dagger

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Design
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Page 34 / if your complexion is a mess
Harryette Mullen, 1953
if your complexion is a mess
our elixir spells skin success
you'll have appeal bewitch be adored
hechizando con crema dermoblanqueadora

what we sell is enlightenment
nothing less than beauty itself
since when can be seen in the dark 
what shines hidden in dirt 

double dutch darky 
take kisses back to Africa
they dipped you in a vat
at the wacky chocolate factory

color we've got in spades 
melanin gives perpetual shade
through rhythm's no answer to cancer
pancakes pale and butter can get rancid
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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God Went to Beauty School
Cynthia Rylant
He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
"Nails by Jim" He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He'd always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He'd ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds' wings, 
and after He'd done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
"Beautiful,"
and mean it.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Larry Levis in Provincetown
Rick Hilles
(June, 2007)
This is how I am summoned from nothingness:
in faded cut offs, moonlighting at Connie's Bakery

where I keep reading Rilke to Jenny, the pastry chef,
who rolls her eyes, & blows flour into my tired face.

Beneath my limp baker's hat & stained white smock
I still wear my favorite Hawaiian shirt, the color

of bubble gum, absinthe & night. We are permitted
to choose but one companion for the great journey,

so Garcia Lorca is here with me;—we arrived last week
as "guest worker summer help." You'll be happy

to know that our work continues, as before, in Death.
Last night we finally had that conversation about

the moon, & mirrors—why they can't tell us
everything they see. We stood at an ivy-lined gate

two summers too late to deliver Stanley Kunitz our best
vermouth & news of Roethke and the other immortal poets

whose ranks by now, at long last, he's joined. Instead,
our poet of black notes took off his white tuxedo shirt

&, facing Stanley's last masterpiece, his front yard
garden, which still revises itself in preparation

for his return, Garcia Lorca revealed thumb-sized
lavender crescent moons, the eerie constellation

across his chest above the heart, the scars of bullet holes
from Franco's Guardia Civil; he told me everything—

from the faces of the firing squad to digging his own grave.
He says the landscape of his dreams has already drifted

from the Alhambra's gardens, wading pools, & almond groves
to the salt marsh at Black Fish Creek & the starlit wisteria

he affectionately calls, "These endlessly creeping vines
of strumpet braids!" And the delicate braids of challah

we braid each day rise like old lovers awakening to our touch
restored. You should see the lean, aristocratic

hands of Garcia Lorca—they’ve never been so strong!
I didn’t think such mortal progress was still possible for us.

Or that I would again be permitted access to the knowledge
that comes in a love amplified by the stirrings of the world.

And then I recognized something in the insistent, winding
taproot of an oak, which pierced me with the recognition

that is holy, & I felt the tug of gravity's widening spell.
So that even if Garcia Lorca and I are just scraping by

with all the others working for peanuts in high season,
to be alive again and living in a hot seaside town

is good as any afterlife
& probably our best chance at happiness.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Tintern Abbey
William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

                                These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.


                                If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.


                                Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence—wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
Wallace Stevens, 1879 - 1955
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Yes
Denise Duhamel, 1961
According to Culture Shock:
A Guide to Customs and Etiquette 
of Filipinos, when my husband says yes,
he could also mean one of the following:
a.) I don't know.
b.) If you say so.
c.) If it will please you.
d.) I hope I have said yes unenthusiastically enough
for you to realize I mean no.
You can imagine the confusion 
surrounding our movie dates, the laundry,
who will take out the garbage
and when. I remind him 
I'm an American, that all his yeses sound alike to me.        
I tell him here in America we have shrinks 
who can help him to be less of a people-pleaser. 
We have two-year-olds who love to scream "No!" 
when they don't get their way. I tell him, 
in America we have a popular book,
When I Say No I Feel Guilty.
"Should I get you a copy?" I ask.
He says yes, but I think he means
"If it will please you," i.e. "I won't read it."
"I'm trying," I tell him, "but you have to try too."
"Yes," he says, then makes tampo,
a sulking that the book Culture Shock describes as
"subliminal hostility . . . withdrawal of customary cheerfulness
in the presence of the one who has displeased" him.
The book says it's up to me to make things all right,
"to restore goodwill, not by talking the problem out,
but by showing concern about the wounded person's
well-being." Forget it, I think, even though I know
if I'm not nice, tampo can quickly escalate into nagdadabog--
foot stomping, grumbling, the slamming
of doors. Instead of talking to my husband, I storm off
to talk to my porcelain Kwan Yin,
the Chinese goddess of mercy
that I bought on Canal Street years before
my husband and I started dating.
"The real Kwan Yin is in Manila,"
he tells me. "She's called Nuestra Señora de Guia.
Her Asian features prove Christianity
was in the Philippines before the Spanish arrived."
My husband's telling me this
tells me he's sorry. Kwan Yin seems to wink,
congratulating me--my short prayer worked.
"Will you love me forever?" I ask,
then study his lips, wondering if I'll be able to decipher
what he means by his yes.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Sex with a Famous Poet
Denise Duhamel, 1961
I had sex with a famous poet last night 
and when I rolled over and found myself beside him I shuddered 
because I was married to someone else, 
because I wasn't supposed to have been drinking,
because I was in fancy hotel room
I didn't recognize. I would have told you 
right off this was a dream, but recently 
a friend told me, write about a dream, 
lose a reader and I didn't want to lose you
right away. I wanted you to hear
that I didn't even like the poet in the dream, that he has 
four kids, the youngest one my age, and I find him 
rather unattractive, that I only met him once,
that is, in real life, and that was in a large group 
in which I barely spoke up. He disgusted me 
with his disparaging remarks about women.
He even used the word "Jap"
which I took as a direct insult to my husband who's Asian. 
When we were first dating, I told him
"You were talking in your sleep last night
and I listened, just to make sure you didn't 
call out anyone else's name." My future-husband said
that he couldn't be held responsible for his subconscious, 
which worried me, which made me think his dreams
were full of blond vixens in rabbit-fur bikinis.
but he said no, he dreamt mostly about boulders 
and the ocean and volcanoes, dangerous weather 
he witnessed but could do nothing to stop. 
And I said, "I dream only of you,"
which was romantic and silly and untrue. 
But I never thought I'd dream of another man--
my husband and I hadn't even had a fight,
my head tucked sweetly in his armpit, my arm 
around his belly, which lifted up and down
all night, gently like water in a lake.
If I passed that famous poet on the street,
he would walk by, famous in his sunglasses 
and blazer with the suede patches at the elbows, 
without so much as a glance in my direction.
I know you're probably curious about who the poet is, 
so I should tell you the clues I've left aren't 
accurate, that I've disguised his identity, 
that you shouldn't guess I bet it's him...
because you'll never guess correctly
and even if you do, I won't tell you that you have. 
I wouldn't want to embarrass a stranger 
who is, after all, probably a nice person, 
who was probably just having a bad day when I met him, 
who is probably growing a little tired of his fame--
which my husband and I perceive as enormous, 
but how much fame can an American poet 
really have, let's say, compared to a rock star 
or film director of equal talent? Not that much,
and the famous poet knows it, knows that he's not 
truly given his due. Knows that many 
of these young poets tugging on his sleeve 
are only pretending to have read all his books.
But he smiles anyway, tries to be helpful. 
I mean, this poet has to have some redeeming qualities, right? 
For instance, he writes a mean iambic. 
Otherwise, what was I doing in his arms.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Kaddish, Part I
Allen Ginsberg, 1926 - 1997

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,
   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues
   shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after--
   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing
   how we suffer--
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,
   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-
   swers--and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn--
Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apoca-
   lypse,
the final moment--the flower burning in the Day--and what comes after, 
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom
   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed--
like a poem in the dark--escaped back to Oblivion--
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,
   trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-
   ping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all--longing or inevitability?--while it
   lasts, a Vision--anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,
   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-
   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant--and
   the sky above--an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to--as I walk toward the Lower East Side
   --where you walked 50 years ago, little girl--from Russia, eating the
   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock 
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?--toward
   Newark--
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice 
   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards--
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,
   and learning to be mad, in a dream--what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window--and the great Key lays its head of light
   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the
   sidewalk--in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward
   the Yiddish Theater--and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now--Strange to have moved
   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on
   the street, fire escapes old as you
--Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me--
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe--and I guess that dies with
   us--enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever
   every time--
That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret--no fear radiators, lacklove,
   torture even toothache in the end--
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul--and the lamb, the soul,
   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair 
   and teeth--and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,
   braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,
   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with 
   God, done with the path thru it--Done with yourself at last--Pure
   --Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all--before the
   world--
There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more 
   fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,
   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands--
No more of sister Elanor,--she gone before you--we kept it secret you
   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you--an arthritic heart
   --But Death's killed you both--No matter--
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and
   weeks--forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-
   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar
   --by standing room with Elanor & Max--watching also the Capital 
   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts
   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and
   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave--lucky to
   have husbands later--
You made it--I came too--Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and
   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer--or kill
   --later perhaps--soon he will think--)
And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now
   --tho not you
I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came 
   first--to you--and were you prepared?
To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the 
   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with
   you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull
   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon--Deaths-
   head with Halo?  can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,
   than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have--what you had--that so pitiful--yet Tri-
   umph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower--fed to the 
   ground--but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, 
   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth
   wrapped, sore--freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the
   knife--lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy--even in the Spring--strange ghost 
   thought some--Death--Sharp icicle in his hand--crowned with old
   roses--a dog for his eyes--cock of a sweatshop--heart of electric
   irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out--clocks, bodies, consciousness,
   shoes, breasts--begotten sons--your Communism--'Paranoia' into
   hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of 
   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is
   Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over
   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes--as he sees--and
   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might 
   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-
   mortality, Naomi?
I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't
   when you had a mouth.
Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses
   --headed to the End.
They know the way--These Steeds--run faster than we think--it's our own
   life they cross--and take with them.

   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-
ried dreamed, mortal changed--Ass and face done with murder.
   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under
pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.
   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,
Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm
hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore
   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not
light or darkness, Dayless Eternity--
   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some
of my Time, now given to Nothing--to praise Thee--But Death
   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-
derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping
--page beyond Psalm--Last change of mine and Naomi--to God's perfect
Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!

II
   Over and over--refrain--of the Hospitals--still haven't written your
history--leave it abstract--a few images
   run thru the mind--like the saxophone chorus of houses and years--
remembrance of electrical shocks.
   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your
nervousness--you were fat--your next move--
   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you--
once and for all--when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my
opinion of the cosmos, I was lost--
   By my later burden--vow to illuminate mankind--this is release of
particulars--(mad as you)--(sanity a trick of agreement)--
   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and
spied a mystical assassin from Newark,
   So phoned the Doctor--'OK go way for a rest'--so I put on my coat
and walked you downstreet--On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,
unaccountably--'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered--
   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask
against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma--
   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of 
the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on--to New
York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound--
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Donkey Carts and Desolation
Matthew Shenoda
Dilapidated clapboard shacks 
piles of bricks in the sand 
scratching at the surface of cohesion

Ingenuity is the notion of building
On a foundation made from loss

Out in these arid expanses
where the Red Sea meets the sand
people dream of progress
made from humility 
and the laughter of others
multi-colored dross scatter across the earth 
like foreign shrubbery

We converse in codes of motion
Language signaling daily headway

Advice for the long haul.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Maenads
Ursula K. Le Guin
Somewhere I read 
that when they finally staggered off the mountain 
into some strange town, past drunk, 
hoarse, half naked, blear-eyed, 
blood dried under broken nails 
and across young thighs, 
but still jeering and joking, still trying 
to dance, lurching and yelling, but falling 
dead asleep by the market stalls, 
sprawled helpless, flat out, then 
middle-aged women, 
respectable housewives, 
would come and stand nightlong in the agora 
silent 
together 
as ewes and cows in the night fields, 
guarding, watching them 
as their mothers 
watched over them. 
And no man 
dared 
that fierce decorum.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
To My Mother
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850 - 1894
You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Kinky
Denise Duhamel, 1961
They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin 
over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend's body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country Camper 
unsure what they'll do when they're within touching distance. 
Ken wants to feel Barbie's toes between his lips, 
take off one of her legs and force his whole arm inside her.
With only the vaguest suggestion of genitals,
all the alluring qualities they possess as fashion dolls, 
up until now, have done neither of them much good. 
But suddenly Barbie is excited looking at her own body 
under the weight of Ken's face. He is part circus freak,
part thwarted hermaphrodite. And she is imagining 
she is somebody else—maybe somebody middle class and ordinary,
maybe another teenage model being caught in a scandal.

The night had begun with Barbie getting angry 
at finding Ken's blow up doll, folded and stuffed
under the couch. He was defensive and ashamed, especially about 
not having the breath to inflate her. But after a round
of pretend-tears, Barbie and Ken vowed to try
to make their relationship work. With their good memories 
as sustaining as good food, they listened to late-night radio 
talk shows, one featuring Doctor Ruth. When all else fails,
just hold each other, the small sex therapist crooned. 
Barbie and Ken, on cue, groped in the dark, 
their interchangeable skin glowing, the color of Band-Aids. 
Then, they let themselves go— Soon Barbie was begging Ken 
to try on her spandex miniskirt. She showed him how 
to pivot as though he was on a runway. Ken begged 
to tie Barbie onto his yellow surfboard and spin her 
on the kitchen table until she grew dizzy. Anything,
anything, they both said to the other's requests,
their mirrored desires bubbling from the most unlikely places.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Highwayman
Alfred Noyes, 1880 - 1958
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
   Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; 
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh. 
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
   His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard, 
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like moldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter, 
   The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, 
Then look for me by moonlight,
   Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand, 
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
   (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
   Marching—marching—
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, 
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side. 
There was death at every window;
   And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest. 
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast.
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
   Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good. 
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood.
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
   Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest. 
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again; 
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
   Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, 
The highwayman came riding,
   Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
   Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood 
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood.
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew gray to hear 
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
   The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky, 
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway, 
   Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.
	  
And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
   Riding—riding— 
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, 
   Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Incident on the Road to the Capital
Dara Wier, 1949
A wolf had grown tired of his character and sought
to find a means to transform himself into something 
more vicious, more deadly. While his coat was slick,
thick and well-colored, for he was an excellent hunter,
he yearned for something to do that had nothing to do 
with survival or instinct. He no longer killed because
he needed to or could. All that was useless, too practical,
too obvious. He wanted to kill for some other purpose.
For all of his successfully completed kills, his perfect
record of stealth and elusion, he felt nothing. When he
ran into me the other day on his journey to consult the 
oracle of escalated suffering we shared a table in the
shade of a parasol tree in whose branches were preening
half a dozen or so birds with gaudy chromatic feathers.
A few of these fell onto the dome of his forehead but he
was too engrossed in his story to brush them away. He 
didn't look like a very serious wolf. I think he was
missing a real opportunity.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Hey You
Adrian Blevins
Back when my head like an egg in a nest  
was vowel-keen and dawdling, I shed my slick beautiful 
and put it in a basket and laid it barefaced at the river 
among the taxing rocks. My beautiful was all hush 
and glitter. It was too moist to grasp. My beautiful 
had no tongue with which to lick—no discernable 
wallowing gnaw. It was really a breed of destruction 
like a nick in a knife. It was a notch in the works 
or a wound like a bell in a fat iron mess. My beautiful 
was a drink too sopping to haul up and swig!
Therefore with the trees watching and the beavers abiding 
I tossed my beautiful down at the waterway against 
the screwball rocks. Even then there was no hum.  
My beautiful was never ill-bred enough, no matter what 
you say. If you want my blue yes everlasting, try my 
she, instead. Try the why not of my low down, 
Sugar, my windswept and wrecked.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Migrant
Ange Mlinko
Sunday takes us to the relic-boxes of small Texas towns,
their shops of Sears and Roebuck
            sewing machine stands,
bordello bedframes, and scrap-metal lawn art: a butterfly
stakes a Spartan garden
            with pollen rust.
Learning the hard way not to touch even the brass panel
of a swinging entrance
            door to cold beer
a rose catheterizing a vase, bloom achieved. None of these
wheel-hoops made overseas,
            none of the wind bearing
signals toward receivers. "What are you, unremember-prone?"
But as a clock-spring's
            reincarnated in
an obnoxious doorknob, squint-squeal, a drawer is shaking out
again its rubber bands,
            nails, batteries, twists,
razor blades, shoelaces, coupons, q-tips, to jerry-rig the butterfly
a sunflower. That's to say
            the armored flower
these Sabbath-shut antique shops show me in mirrors.
With a castle of black iron,
            very Louise Nevelson,
gears and ratchets and half-moon windows in turrets
buffered by a wall of copper beech,
            a moat of black mondo grass
and borders of purple wandering jew. If I thread the screw
in that will hold the weight
            of this world upon the wall,
the mirrors of the antique shops and the antique shops themselves
protest that we're not unpacked.
            That we may not be
before the buzzards sink, empty ink cartridges
of those translucent claws.
            Not fully.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Secret Last Year (A Calendar Twelve-tone) [4. April, maybe]
Adriano Spatola
The sun is made of many mysterious concepts
cowardly resentments with listless rotation
they say they don't say but they demand attention
something rotten a little enlarged or rosy
a slight lividness applied to our pettiness
with light brush strokes exhausted by the heat
I speak of the heat that spoils and enthuses
of this black and magic heat that doesn't survive
innocuously childish to the organism's purpose
softened by the veritable verities drawing near
in April which is the fourth month of the year
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball
Christopher Merrill
   after practice: right foot
to left foot, stepping forward and back, 
   to right foot and left foot,
and left foot up to his thigh, holding 
   it on his thigh as he twists
around in a circle, until it rolls 
   down the inside of his leg,
like a tickle of sweat, not catching 
   and tapping on the soft
side of his foot, and juggling
   once, twice, three times,
hopping on one foot like a jump-roper 
   in the gym, now trapping
and holding the ball in midair, 
   balancing it on the instep
of his weak left foot, stepping forward 
   and forward and back, then
lifting it overhead until it hangs there; 
   and squaring off his body,
he keeps the ball aloft with a nudge 
   of his neck, heading it
from side to side, softer and softer, 
   like a dying refrain,
until the ball, slowing, balances 
   itself on his hairline,
the hot sun and sweat filling his eyes 
   as he jiggles this way
and that, then flicking it up gently, 
   hunching his shoulders
and tilting his head back, he traps it 
   in the hollow of his neck,
and bending at the waist, sees his shadow, 
   his dangling T-shirt, the bent
blades of brown grass in summer heat; 
   and relaxing, the ball slipping
down his back. . .and missing his foot.

   He wheels around, he marches 
over the ball, as if it were a rock
   he stumbled into, and pressing
his left foot against it, he pushes it
   against the inside of his right 
until it pops into the air, is heeled
   over his head--the rainbow!-- 
and settles on his extended thigh before
   rolling over his knee and down 
his shin, so he can juggle it again
   from his left foot to his right foot
—and right foot to left foot to thigh—
   as he wanders, on the last day
of summer, around the empty field.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Words and the Diminution of All Things
Charles Wright, 1935

The brief secrets are still here,
                            and the light has come back. 
The word remember touches my hand,
But I shake it off and watch the turkey buzzards bank and wheel
Against the occluded sky.
All of the little names sink down,
                            weighted with what is invisible,
But no one will utter them, no one will smooth their rumpled hair. 

There isn't much time, in any case.
There isn't much left to talk about
                            as the year deflates.
There isn't a lot to add.
Road-worn, December-colored, they cluster like unattractive angels
Wherever a thing appears,
Crisp and unspoken, unspeakable
                            in their mute and glittering garb.

All afternoon the clouds have been sliding toward us
                                      out of the
      Blue Ridge.
All afternoon the leaves have scuttled
Across the sidewalk and driveway, clicking their clattery claws.
And now the evening is over us,
Small slices of silence
                  running under a dark rain,
Wrapped in a larger.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Rime Riche
Monica Ferrell
You need me like ice needs the mountain 
On which it breeds. Like print needs the page.
You move in me like the tongue in a mouth,
Like wind in the leaves of summer trees,
Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire
Which is movement. You taste me the way the claws
Of a pigeon taste that window-ledge on which it sits,
The way water tastes rust in the pipes it shuttles through
Beneath a city, unfolding and luminous with industry. 
Before you were born, the table of elements 
Was lacking, and I as a noble gas floated 
Free of attachment. Before you were born, 
The sun and the moon were paper-thin plates 
Some machinist at his desk merely clicked into place.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Kite for Aibhin
Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013
After "L'Aquilone" by Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912)
Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air is supporting
A white wing beating high against the breeze,

And yes, it is a kite! As when one afternoon
All of us there trooped out
Among the briar hedges and stripped thorn,

I take my stand again, halt opposite
Anahorish Hill to scan the blue,
Back in that field to launch our long-tailed comet.

And now it hovers, tugs, veers, dives askew,
Lifts itself, goes with the wind until
It rises to loud cheers from us below.

Rises, and my hand is like a spindle
Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower
Climbing and carrying, carrying farther, higher

The longing in the breast and planted feet
And gazing face and heart of the kite flier
Until string breaks and—separate, elate—

The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Boreal
Andrew Joron
Across the stiffening pond, your steps
        send broken branching signals
Faultless as some harp-tuning 
    
        dedicated to silence: each note
Carries an interior candle of dissonance
        the dark calendar
Marked by a sequence of frozen suns

There is a season deeper than winter
Passing in these 
        tree-diagrams, & mechanisms 
Of common speech

Sleeping under the solstice, you may suffer
Recurrent dreams 
        as the wreckage returns its image

Unburied 
The harp
        a pelvic bone, turns in your hands

But failing (you—the player
Of a misshapen instrument) 
        to complete the world's anatomy

(That story was told in deafening peals) 
        or even to mimic this

Weather's argument-in-whispers, its subtle
        ashen-green 
Striations...

"Let waters once chaotic
        assume the form of a rigid plane"

        understanding things
        are furious in their motionlessness

If the laws that govern awakening
Come to resemble a city of blue spires

        you will not awaken soon
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Spine to Spin, Spoke to Speak
Andrew Joron
The pilot alone knows
That the plot is missing its
Eye.

Why isn't this "ominous science" 
   itself afraid, a frayed
Identity?

Pray, protagonist —
Prey to this series of staggered instants.

Here the optic 
Paints its hole, its self-consuming moment.
It is speech, dispelled, that 
   begs to begin to ache.

So that wind accelerates to wound, a dead sound
   enlivened by the visitation of owls.

As pallid as parallel, the cry
Of the negative is not the negative 
   of the cry — an irreparable blessing —

A green world's 
   "sibilant shadows" where
The syllables of your name are growing younger.

As involuntary as involuted, "who"   
   returns its noun 
   to each tender branch
That noon breaks into no one.

Point of view
Hovers, a circular cloud, over evacuated
Time.

That heard its herd bellow below
   the terraced cities, the milled millions

   as sold as unsouled, ghost-cargos. 

A symptom of the Maddening —
Woman undressed of her flesh. 
Man's address
   to Thou, & the flag of Thou.

How the fallen state
Meets the starry horizon, veil 
   against witness, hunger against void.

O, oldest 
   outermost Other —

Ageing mask 
Of the transparent Earth. Unspeculated
   image 
Streaked with mirror & stricken words.

You are neither the torn, nor the thorn.

You are the many-petalled
   melting point of repeating decimals. . .

Receiver, river
Has been burned into voice, a day-dark ribbon.
   
All signal is this 
Single.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Moth in the Projectorlight [excerpt]
Joshua Marie Wilkinson

          ***

Even if only in photographs—
a laundry truck, seconds after.
Phone in the apartment ringing
above the accident & a coroner
careful enough to stay speechless
until the wind picks up
& the passersby can smell simply
the blood, like fresh wood or
cut metal.

          ***

A boy of six cups his hands
around a wet moth
as he stands up
in the bathtub
releasing it to the mirrorlight.
Beige wingdust on his palm.

          ***

Yellow. The room is orange
& black also. Water
a whistle, draining in his mother’s tub.

          ***
This is the part of the story where
you leave
          & where I come in.
                                        Wait
there
          no—
                    there
around the corner for the signal:
the greenfinch
your twin sisters will
free from the balcony.

          ***

Came around
smelling of rye.
Aluminum dust under his
fingernails.

          ***

Memory opens a little door:
the dark & you listen
with your eyes
& write things in my letter
you’ll pretend later
to forget.

          ***

A kid at the mailbox sings that
your brothers are deader than doorlocks,
that your mother lives
in their teeth.

          ***

                    City of
no center, broke-lit
from the team of horses
asleep standing
under the great lamps.

          ***

A curse of split melon
on the kitchen counter

draws me out into the snowdrift.
White heat from the boy’s breath
& the toy house’s tiny doorbell
chimes somehow in the empty room
startling the cat.

          ***

You took your apricot dress to the drycleaners
& left it forever.

          ***

Haystink, humming street ruckus, moonlit
thumb-slice—
Each evening I peek into that mailbox
for what my father’s unable to tell me
on the edge of my own bed
feeling that
morning will scorch
into the sockets of his arms
& that he is
drinking           sorry again
Anna           sleep
sorry again.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [Blow, blow, thou winter wind]
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616

Lord Amiens, a musician, sings before Duke Senior's company


  Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
  Thou art not so unkind
      As man's ingratitude;
  Thy tooth is not so keen,
  Because thou art not seen,
      Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
  Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
      This life is most jolly.

  Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
  That does not bite so nigh
      As benefits forgot:
  Though thou the waters warp,
  Thy sting is not so sharp
      As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing . . .
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Hand
Jane Hirshfield, 1953
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.

Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.

Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.

The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.

Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
To Think of Time
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
1

To think of time—of all that retrospection!   
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!   
   
Have you guess'd you yourself would not continue?   
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?   
Have you fear'd the future would be nothing to you?
   
Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?   
If the future is nothing, they are just as surely nothing.   
   
To think that the sun rose in the east! that men and women
   were flexible, real, alive! that everything was alive!   
To think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our
   part!   
To think that we are now here, and bear our part!
   
2

Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without an
   accouchement!   
Not a day passes—not a minute or second, without a corpse!   
   
The dull nights go over, and the dull days also,   
The soreness of lying so much in bed goes over,   
The physician, after long putting off, gives the silent and terrible
   look for an answer,
The children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters
   are sent for,   
Medicines stand unused on the shelf—(the camphor-smell has
   long pervaded the rooms,)   
The faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying,   
The twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the dying,   
The breath ceases, and the pulse of the heart ceases,
The corpse stretches on the bed, and the living look upon it,   
It is palpable as the living are palpable.   
   
The living look upon the corpse with their eye-sight,   
But without eye-sight lingers a different living, and looks curiously
   on the corpse.   
   
3

To think the thought of Death, merged in the thought of materials! 
To think that the rivers will flow, and the snow fall, and fruits ripen,
   and act upon others as upon us now—yet not act upon us!   
To think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking
   great interest in them—and we taking no interest in them!   
   
To think how eager we are in building our houses!   
To think others shall be just as eager, and we quite indifferent!   
   
(I see one building the house that serves him a few years, or seventy
   or eighty years at most,
I see one building the house that serves him longer than that.)   
   
Slow-moving and black lines creep over the whole earth—they never
   cease—they are the burial lines,   
He that was President was buried, and he that is now President shall
   surely be buried.   
   
4

A reminiscence of the vulgar fate,   
A frequent sample of the life and death of workmen,
Each after his kind:   
Cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf—posh and ice in the river,
   half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray, discouraged sky overhead,
   the short, last daylight of Twelfth-month,   
A hearse and stages—other vehicles give place—the funeral
   of an old Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.   
   
Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate
   is pass'd, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the
   hearse uncloses,   
The coffin is pass'd out, lower'd and settled, the whip is laid on the
   coffin, the earth is swiftly shovel'd in, 
The mound above is flatted with the spades—silence,   
A minute—no one moves or speaks—it is done,   
He is decently put away—is there anything more?   
   
He was a good fellow, free-mouth'd, quick-temper'd, not bad-looking,
   able to take his own part, witty, sensitive to a slight, ready with
   life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty,
   drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited
   toward the last, sicken'd, was help'd by a contribution, died, aged
   forty-one years—and that was his funeral.   
   
Thumb extended, finger uplifted, apron, cape, gloves, strap, wet-weather
   clothes, whip carefully chosen, boss, spotter, starter, hostler,
   somebody loafing on you, you loafing on somebody, headway, man before
   and man behind, good day's work, bad day's work, pet stock, mean
   stock, first out, last out, turning-in at night;
To think that these are so much and so nigh to other drivers—and
   he there takes no interest in them!   
   
5

The markets, the government, the working-man's wages—to think what
   account they are through our nights and days!   
To think that other working-men will make just as great account of
   them—yet we make little or no account!   
   
The vulgar and the refined—what you call sin, and what you call
   goodness—to think how wide a difference!   
To think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond
   the difference.
   
To think how much pleasure there is!   
Have you pleasure from looking at the sky? have you pleasure from poems?   
Do you enjoy yourself in the city? or engaged in business? or planning a
   nomination and election? or with your wife and family?   
Or with your mother and sisters? or in womanly housework? or the beautiful
   maternal cares?   
—These also flow onward to others—you and I flow onward, 
But in due time, you and I shall take less interest in them.   
   
Your farm, profits, crops,—to think how engross'd you are!   
To think there will still be farms, profits, crops—yet for you, of
   what avail?   
   
6

What will be, will be well—for what is, is well,   
To take interest is well, and not to take interest shall be well.
   
The sky continues beautiful,   
The pleasure of men with women shall never be sated, nor the pleasure of
   women with men, nor the pleasure from poems,   
The domestic joys, the daily housework or business, the building of
   houses—these are not phantasms—they have weight, form,
   location;   
Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them
   phantasms,   
The difference between sin and goodness is no delusion,
The earth is not an echo—man and his life, and all the things of
   his life, are well-consider'd.   
   
You are not thrown to the winds—you gather certainly and safely
   around yourself;   
Yourself! Yourself! Yourself, forever and ever!   
   
7

It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and
   father—it is to identify you;   
It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided;
Something long preparing and formless is arrived and form'd in you,   
You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes.   
   
The threads that were spun are gather'd, the weft crosses the warp,
   the pattern is systematic.   
   
The preparations have every one been justified,   
The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments—the
   baton has given the signal.
   
The guest that was coming—he waited long, for reasons—he
   is now housed,   
He is one of those who are beautiful and happy—he is one of
   those that to look upon and be with is enough.   
   
The law of the past cannot be eluded,   
The law of the present and future cannot be eluded,   
The law of the living cannot be eluded—it is eternal,
The law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded,   
The law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded,   
The law of drunkards, informers, mean persons—not one iota thereof
   can be eluded.   
   
8

Slow moving and black lines go ceaselessly over the earth,   
Northerner goes carried, and Southerner goes carried, and they on the
   Atlantic side, and they on the Pacific, and they between, and all
   through the Mississippi country, and all over the earth.
   
The great masters and kosmos are well as they go—the heroes and
   good-doers are well,   
The known leaders and inventors, and the rich owners and pious and
   distinguish'd, may be well,   
But there is more account than that—there is strict account
   of all.   
   
The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing,   
The barbarians of Africa and Asia are not nothing,
The common people of Europe are not nothing—the American
   aborigines are not nothing,   
The infected in the immigrant hospital are not nothing—the
   murderer or mean person is not nothing,   
The perpetual successions of shallow people are not nothing as
   they go,   
The lowest prostitute is not nothing—the mocker of religion
   is not nothing as he goes.   
   
9

Of and in all these things,
I have dream'd that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law
   of us changed,   
I have dream'd that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present
   and past law,   
And that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present
   and past law,   
For I have dream'd that the law they are under now is enough.   
   
If otherwise, all came but to ashes of dung,
If maggots and rats ended us, then Alarum! for we are betray'd!   
Then indeed suspicion of death.   
   
Do you suspect death? If I were to suspect death, I should die
   now,   
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward
   annihilation?   
   
10

Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,   
The whole universe indicates that it is good,   
The past and the present indicate that it is good.   
   
How beautiful and perfect are the animals!   
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
   
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just
   as perfect,   
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable
   fluids are perfect;   
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely
   they yet pass on.   
   
11

I swear I think now that everything without exception has an
   eternal Soul!   
The trees have, rooted in the ground! the weeds of the sea have!
   the animals!
   
I swear I think there is nothing but immortality!   
That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is
   for it, and the cohering is for it;   
And all preparation is for it! and identity is for it! and life
   and materials are altogether for it!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Forest of My Hair
James Tolan
I'm 28 years old in the flesh
but in a mirror all I can see
is a boy after his first crew cut,
five years old and wondering
what happened to his hair,

disbelieving it would ever
grow back, as the barber
and his grandfather promised,
while he wept, silently,
trembling air through his lips,
pointing at his hair
strewn across a tiled floor.

My grandfather unwrapped
sour balls for both of us, and, 
leaving his Falcon behind, 
walked with me to the woods.

These woods, he said, are yours.
They were mine, but I give them
to you. I am old, and it is only right 
they should now belong to you.

I have lived most of my life
in the absence of that 
gentle voice, and those
woods of mine were clear-cut
years ago, but my hair,
I wear it long in honor of him.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Vertical
Linda Pastan, 1932
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.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
Pamela Spiro Wagner
First, forget everything you have learned, 
that poetry is difficult, 
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you, 
with your high school equivalency diploma, 
your steel-tipped boots, 
or your white-collar misunderstandings. 

Do not assume meanings hidden from you: 
the best poems mean what they say and say it. 

To read poetry requires only courage 
enough to leap from the edge 
and trust.  

Treat a poem like dirt, 
humus rich and heavy from the garden. 
Later it will become the fat tomatoes 
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. 

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day. 
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands 
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun. 

When you can name five poets 
without including Bob Dylan, 
when you exceed your quota 
and don't even notice, 
close this manual.

Congratulations.
You can now read poetry.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Love For This Book
Pablo Neruda, 1904 - 1973
In these lonely regions I have been powerful
in the same way as a cheerful tool
or like untrammeled grass which lets loose its seed
or like a dog rolling around in the dew.
Matilde, time will pass wearing out and burning
another skin, other fingernails, other eyes, and then
the algae that lashed our wild rocks,
the waves that unceasingly construct their own whiteness,
all will be firm without us,
all will be ready for the new days,
which will not know our destiny.

What do we leave here but the lost cry
of the seabird, in the sand of winter, in the gusts of wind
that cut our faces and kept us
erect in the light of purity,
as in the heart of an illustrious star?

What do we leave, living like a nest
of surly birds, alive, among the thickets
or static, perched on the frigid cliffs?
So then, if living was nothing more than anticipating
the earth, this soil and its harshness,
deliver me, my love, from not doing my duty, and help me
return to my place beneath the hungry earth.

We asked the ocean for its rose,
its open star, its bitter contact,
and to the overburdened, to the fellow human being, to the wounded
we gave the freedom gathered in the wind.
It's late now. Perhaps
it was only a long day the color of honey and blue,
perhaps only a night, like the eyelid
of a grave look that encompassed
the measure of the sea that surrounded us,
and in this territory we found only a kiss,
only ungraspable love that will remain here
wandering among the sea foam and roots.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
There is no frigate like a book (1263)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
There is no Frigate like a Book  
To take us Lands away,  
Nor any Coursers like a Page  
Of prancing Poetry –   
This Traverse may the poorest take         
Without oppress of Toll –   
How frugal is the Chariot  
That bears a Human soul.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Books
Gerald Stern, 1925
How you loved to read in the snow and when your
face turned to water from the internal heat
combined with the heavy crystals or maybe it was
reversus you went half-blind and your eyelashes
turned to ice the time you walked through swirls 
with dirty tears not far from the rat-filled river
or really a mile away—or two—in what 
you came to call the Aristotle room
in a small hole outside the Carnegie library.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Ode to My Hands
Tim Seibles
Five-legged pocket spiders, knuckled
starfish, grabbers of forks, why
do I forget that you love me:
your willingness to button my shirts,
tie my shoes—even scratch my head!
which throbs like a traffic jam, each thought
leaning on its horn. I see you

waiting anyplace always 
at the ends of my arms—for the doctor,
for the movie to begin, for 
freedom—so silent, such 
patience! testing the world
with your bold myopia: faithful,
ready to reach out at my 
softest suggestion, to fly up 
like two birds when I speak, two 
brown thrashers brandishing verbs
like twigs in your beaks, lifting 
my speech the way pepper springs 
the tongue from slumber. O! 

If only they knew the unrestrained 
innocence of your intentions, 
each finger a cappella, singing
a song that rings like rain
before it falls—that never falls!
Such harmony: the bass thumb, the
pinkie's soprano, the three tenors
in between: kind quintet x 2
rowing my heart like a little boat
upon whose wooden seat I sit
strummed by Sorrow. Or maybe 

I misread you completely
and you are dreaming a tangerine, one
particular hot tamale, a fabulous
banana! to peel suggestively,
like thigh-high stockings: grinning
as only hands can grin 
down the legs—caramel, cocoa, 
black-bean black, vanilla—such lubricious 
dimensions, such public secrets!
Women sailing the streets 
with God's breath at their backs. 
Think of it! No! Yes:
let my brain sweat, make my 
veins whimper: without you, my five-hearted 
fiends, my five-headed hydras, what 
of my mischievous history? The possibilities
suddenly impossible—feelings 
not felt, rememberings un-
remembered—all the touches 
untouched: the gallant strain 

of a pilfered ant, tiny muscles 
flexed with fight, the gritty 
sidewalk slapped after a slip, the pulled 
weed, the plucked flower—a buttercup! 
held beneath Dawn's chin—the purest kiss,
the caught grasshopper's kick, honey,
chalk, charcoal, the solos teased
from guitar. Once, I played 
viola for a year and never stopped

to thank you—my two angry sisters, 
my two hungry men—but you knew
I just wanted to know
what the strings would say 
concerning my soul, my whelming
solipsism: this perpetual solstice
where one + one = everything
and two hands teach a dawdler
the palpable alchemy
of an unreasonable world. 
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Good Hair
Sherman Alexie, 1966

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Do you grieve their loss? Have you thought twice about your braids?

With that long, black hair, you looked overtly Indian.
If vanity equals vice, then does vice equal braids?

Are you warrior-pretend? Are you horseback-never?
Was your drum-less, drum-less life disguised by your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
You have school-age kids, so did head lice invade your braids?

Were the scissors impulsive or inevitable?
Did you arrive home and say, "Surprise, I cut my braids"?

Do you miss the strange women who loved to touch your hair?
Do you miss being eroticized because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Did you weep or laugh when you said goodbye to your braids?

Did you donate your hair for somebody's chemo wig?
Is there a cancer kid who thrives because of your braids?

Did you, peace chief, give your hair to an orphaned sparrow?
Is there a bald eagle that flies because of your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it worth it? Did you profit? What's the price of braids?

Did you cut your hair after your sister's funeral?
Was it self-flagellation? Did you chastise your braids?

Has your tribe and clan cut-hair-mourned since their creation?
Did you, ceremony-dumb, improvise with your braids?

Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?
Was it a violent act? Did you despise your braids?

Did you cut your hair after booze murdered your father?
When he was buried, did you baptize him with your braids?

Did you weave your hair with your siblings' and mother's hair,
And pray that your father grave-awakes and climbs your braids?

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Black bird, red wing
Nickole Brown
So this is where the last year 
of the Mayan calendar begins—
5,000 birds falling on Beebe, 
Arkansas, a state that could smooth 
out with the sway of the plains 
but instead sputters the silence 
of the first syllable like a pothole 
that hits before you're off the 
on ramp—say it—
ar-    
           -can-saw—
ending with that blade 
of rusted teeth to chew 
through the last of what's left 
of those woods, a fast-driving 
diesel flatbed of felled trees 
and all of us in a tight spot 
between that chugging machine 
and the concrete barrier 
as we hope the straight back 
of our consonants will 
hold, even if they are quiescent 
monsters, reticent prayers, 
because we can't help it, we lean 
towards letters that do not bend, 
try our exhausted weight 
on the middle of that state, 
that silent K—the shape of a man 
trying to hold up the ceiling, 
trying not to think 
of its falling 
as the sky's.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Story XI. The Lion who Hunted with the Wolf and the Fox
Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207 - 1273

A lion took a wolf and a fox with him on a hunting excursion, and succeeded in catching a wild ox, an ibex, and a hare. He then directed the wolf to divide the prey. The wolf proposed to award the ox to the lion, the ibex to himself, and the hare to the fox. The lion was enraged with the wolf because he had presumed to talk of "I" and "Thou" and "My share" and "Thy share," when it all belonged of right to the lion, and he slew the wolf with one blow of his paw. Then, turning to the fox, he ordered him to make the division. The fox, rendered wary by the fate of the wolf, replied that the whole should be the portion of the lion. The lion, pleased with his self-abnegation, gave it all up to him, saying, "Thou art no longer a fox, but myself."

"Till man destroys 'self' he is no true friend of God."
Once a man came and knocked at the door of his friend.
His friend said, "Who art thou, O faithful one?"
He said, "'Tis I." He answered, "There is no admittance.
There is no room for the 'raw' at my well-cooked feast.
Naught but fire of separation and absence
Can cook the raw one and free him from hypocrisy!
Since thy 'self' has not yet left thee,
Thou must be burned in fiery flames."
The poor man went away, and for one whole year
Journeyed burning with grief for his friend's absence.
His heart burned till it was cooked; then he went again
And drew near to the house of his friend.
He knocked at the door in fear and trepidation
Lest some careless word might fall from his lips.
His friend shouted, "Who is that at the door?"
He answered, "'Tis Thou who art at the door, O Beloved!"
The friend said, "Since 'tis I, let me come in,
There is not room for two 'I's in one house."
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
On The Origins Of Things
Troy Jollimore
Everyone knows that the moon started out
as a renegade fragment of the sun, a solar
flare that fled that hellish furnace
and congealed into a flat frozen pond suspended
between the planets. But did you know
that anger began as music, played
too often and too loudly by drunken performers
at weddings and garden parties? Or that turtles
evolved from knuckles, ice from tears, and darkness
from misunderstanding? As for the dominant
thesis regarding the origin of love, I 
abstain from comment, nor will I allow
myself to address the idea that dance
began as a kiss, that happiness was
an accidental import from Spain, that the ancient 
game of jump-the-fire gave rise 
to politics. But I will confess 
that I began as an astronomer—a liking 
for bright flashes, vast distances, unreachable things, 
a hand stretched always toward the furthest limit—
and that my longing for you has not taken me
very far from that original desire
to inscribe a comet's orbit around the walls
of our city, to gently stroke the surface of the stars.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Summer
Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925
Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Poems for Blok, 1
Marina Tsvetaeva
Your name is a—bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips' quick opening.
Your name—five letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth.
A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—shrill click of a cocked gun.
Your name—impossible—
kiss on my eyes,
the chill of closed eyelids.
Your name—a kiss of snow.
Blue gulp of icy spring water.
With your name—sleep deepens.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Psalm of Home Redux
David Lee
        after rereading Cormac McCarthy and taking
             a 5 mile run through the River Ranch
                                                     

                    Laughter is also a form of prayer
                                             —Kierkegaard

Okay then, right here,
Lord, in Bandera,
tether me to my shadow
like a fat spavined mule
stuck sideways in Texas tank mud
bawling for eternity

At midnight's closing whine
of the 11th Street Bar's steel guitar,
when the stars slip their traces
and race the moon like wild horses
to their death in the darkness,
let my hoarse song twine with the night wind

May the bray of today's good laughter
fall like a brittle top branch
wind nudged from a sprawling live oak
straight down like early spring sleet
to the hill country's bent
and trembling bluebonnet covered knees
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Complaint
William Logan
The faucets squeeze 
out a dribble of rust.  
The stained slip-covers 

fray like seaweed. Scruffy, haggled
weeds confined to broken pots; 
shy, disfigured poppies; 

a barked rose succumbing
to white-frocked aphids—
the garden doesn't work. The heater

doesn't work. Nothing works.
Who lives in such a house?  
The pipes piss and moan,

as if forced to pay taxes.
If there are dream houses, 
are there undreamed houses

full of the things we desire,
or only those we deserve?
Perhaps they are the homes 

of strange gods with some
incomprehensible, whimsical 
way of looking at things.

You said we waded through the mysteries to get here.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Man may make a Remark (952)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
A Man may make a Remark -
In itself - a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature - lain -

Let us divide - with skill -
Let us discourse - with care -
Powder exists in Charcoal -
Before it exists in Fire -
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Gulls
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
My townspeople, beyond in the great world,
are many with whom it were far more
profitable for me to live than here with you.
These whirr about me calling, calling!
and for my own part I answer them, loud as I can,
but they, being free, pass!
I remain! Therefore, listen!
For you will not soon have another singer.

First I say this: you have seen
the strange birds, have you not, that sometimes
rest upon our river in winter?
Let them cause you to think well then of the storms
that drive many to shelter. These things
do not happen without reason.

And the next thing I say is this:
I saw an eagle once circling against the clouds
over one of our principal churches—
Easter, it was—a beautiful day!
three gulls came from above the river
and crossed slowly seaward!
Oh, I know you have your own hymns, I have heard them—
and because I knew they invoked some great protector
I could not be angry with you, no matter
how much they outraged true music—

You see, it is not necessary for us to leap at each other,
and, as I told you, in the end
the gulls moved seaward very quietly.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Balance, onslaught
Khadijah Queen
after Clare Rojas
(I have a diamond house
with men. I have pierced
men and diamond shoes.
I have shoed horses and
a tilted head. I have a tilted
cart and a flowered scarf.
I have a gray dress and a
hell of a guitar. I play the
guitar and the jukebox jack-
in-the-box gutted brown 
bear and canoe landscape. I
play the grayest song and a
cat's yarn game.) I sit in the
forest with a cat and a knife.
(I see the quilted mountains
and long knitted birds. I see
the man limping across the
path of chevrons between
the trees. I sit between trees,
hanging hair and red mouth.
I mouth and sit. The buck
stands by the river. I am in
my paper mask, my wood.)
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Bottom
Denise Duhamel, 1961
I stopped drinking on my way down the hill
to the liquor store when two guys pulled up
and tried to drag me into their pickup. I crossed the street
then ran in the opposite direction, puffing
against the incline. The stranger thrust into reverse 
and, when I wouldn't talk to him,
threw a bag of McDonald’s trash at me,
Stuck up bitch. I stopped drinking
when I realized I was fighting 
for the vodka at the bottom of the hill
more than I was fighting against the terrible
things that could have happened to me
inside the cab of that rusty Chevy. I stopped drinking
before cell phones. I stopped drinking
after Days of Wine and Roses. I stopped drinking
even as I kept walking to El Prado Spirits
and the guy behind the counter who recognized me
asked if I was alright. I didn't tell him
what had happened because he might have called
the police and then I would have had to wait
for them to arrive to fill out a report, delaying my Smirnoff.  
I stopped drinking even before I had that last sip,
as I ran back up the hill squeezing a bottle by its neck.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
My Mother Was No White Dove
Reginald Shepherd, 1963 - 2008
no dove at all, coo-rooing through the dusk
and foraging for small seeds
My mother was the clouded-over night
a moon swims through, the dark against which stars
switch themselves on, so many already dead
by now (stars switch themselves off
and are my mother, she was never
so celestial, so clearly seen)

My mother was the murderous flight of crows
stilled, black plumage gleaming
among black branches, taken
for nocturnal leaves, the difference
between two darks:

a cacophony of needs
in the bare tree silhouette,
a flight of feathers, scattering
black. She was the night
streetlights oppose (perch
for the crows, their purchase on sight),
obscure bruise across the sky
making up names for rain

My mother always falling
was never snow, no kind
of bird, pigeon or crow
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Antique
Arthur Rimbaud, 1854 - 1891
Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned
with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious
spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees,
your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your
chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your
blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double
sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh,
that second thigh and that left leg.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Dark Matter
Jack Myers
I've lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip—I'll need this and that
and I can't possibly do without that!


But now I'm about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.


There's no place on earth
where I can't unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.


No place where I can't enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering


I'll need this and I'll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Book of the Dead Man (Food)
Marvin Bell, 1937
Live as if you were already dead.
                          Zen admonition
1. About the Dead Man and Food

The dead man likes chocolate, dark chocolate.
The dead man remembers custard as it was, spumoni as it was, shave
          ice as it was.
The dead man talks food with an active tongue, licks his fingers, takes
          seconds, but has moved on to salads.
It's the cheese, it's the crunch of the crunchy, it's the vinegar in the oil
          that makes a salad more than grass.
The dead man has a grassy disposition but no cow stomach for flappy
          leaves and diced croutons.
The dead man remembers oysterettes as they were.
He recalls good water and metal-free fish.
Headlights from the dock drew in blue claw crabs by the bucketful.
A flashlight showed them where the net lay.
If they looked bigger in the water than in the pail, they grew back on the
          stove.
It was like that, before salads.
The dead man, at the age he is, has redefined mealtime.
It being the quantum fact that the dead man does not believe in time, but
          in mealtime.

2. More About the Dead Man and Food

The dead man's happiness may seem unseemly.
By land or by sea, aloft or alit, happiness befalls us.
Were mankind less transfixed by its own importance, it would be harder
          to be happy.
Were the poets less obsessed with the illusion of the self, it would be
          more difficult to sing.
It would be crisscross, it would be askew, it would be zigzag, it would be
          awry, it would be cockeyed in any context of thought.
The dead man has felt the sensation of living.
He has felt the orgasmic, the restful, the ambiguous, the nearly-falling-over,
           the equilibrium, the lightning-in-the-bottle and the bottle in shards.
You cannot make the dead man write what you want.
The dead man offers quick approval but seeks none in return.
Chocolate is the more existential, it has the requisite absurdity, it loosens
          the gland.
The dead man must choose what he ingests, it cannot be anything goes
          in the world the world made.
So we come back to chocolate, which frees the dead man's tongue.
The dead man is every emotion at once, every heartbreak, every falling-
          down laugh riot, every fishhook that caught a finger.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Samurai Song
Robert Pinsky, 1940
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Mother's Day
David Young
        —for my children

I see her doing something simple, paying bills,
or leafing through a magazine or book,
and wish that I could say, and she could hear,

that now I start to understand her love
for all of us, the fullness of it.

It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,
a modest lamp.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Blood
C. Dale Young
Someone has already pulled a knife
across my chest, and the rope has already
gripped our wrists drawing blood.

I am naked, and I cannot be sure
if you are as well. In the room, the men
come and go, yelling blood bath, half-blood,

blood-bitch. We never hear the word trueblood.
In my dreams I am dying all the time.
We are bound and gagged, blindfolded,

but still I know you must be the one
lying there, the cool anodized steel table
beneath us, the two of us side by side.

Lying there, my shoulder blades ache,
and there is blood collecting in
the corners of my mouth. But then it happens,

just as it always happens: your fingers
suddenly twist into tiny shoots, your arms
break free as you accept the shape

of a tree, the leaves sprouting, the delicate
bark rising up from your skin's surface.
Try as I might, I never seem able.

On the telephone this morning, I again
keep the dream to myself. Half-blood
becomes half-breed. Blood-bitch

becomes blood-sister. But blood never lies,
does it? Blood carries so many secrets
one can only hear its murmurs in our arteries,

its incessant monologue, in the quiet
night's bed just before sleep. Blood says
You are more and, sometimes, You are less.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
A Short History of the Apple
Dorianne Laux, 1952
The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
   —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929


Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Rocket Fantastic [excerpt]
Gabrielle Calvocoressi
It's ridiculous what fame
can buy you. Not the beast
but the tiny, frightened
man who brings him
in a cage from Alhambra,
who stands in the doorway
as the three girls finish,
get off the bed and walk down 
to the pool, giggling as they pass.
The Bandleader borrowed
a tiger because we saw it 
in a reel the studio sent over,
some movie about a prince
that played against the wall
of the upstairs bedroom. 
Sometimes a girl would jump 
into the pool and the waves  
shimmered up. In the movie
the prince brings the tiger
to the castle and it rules
alongside him, "That's not 
believable," the Bandleader  
said and then, "Don't stop." 
And then, "Ah. Right there."
The prince would place his hand 
on the tiger's head and grab 
his hair in his fist and move 
it around. I liked to watch 
him start to want things, a wetness
forming in his mind. There were 
three girls squealing in the pool
and the waves  came up to us 
as ripples of light that I passed 
my fingers through, "You're blue 
with gold stripes," the Bandleader 
said, looking up at me 
but imagining the tiger beside him 
already, before he even  
reached for the phone.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Flesh
Joan Larkin
Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us			               

stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes 						

crammed with something soft. She had a bulb	         

of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots.       

Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder 

and fed chunks into it and forced them down.        

She let me turn the crank, and red worms      	

fell to the bowl. I ate according to the Law             	

and the cow's flesh became my flesh. 	   		

Now I lower my head to eat, moan when I wake 	

from the fear dream, the one where we shove 		

one another down the ramp toward the violent 

stench and the boy's knife. He lifts his arm

in a rhythm I've always known.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Autumn
Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925
They brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Opulent, flaunting.
Round gold
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Of maturity,
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball of proclamation:
Fecundity decked in staring yellow
For all the world to see.
They brought a quilled, yellow dahlia,
To me who am barren
Shall I send it to you,
You who have taken with you
All I once possessed?
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Facing It
Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears. 
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's 
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Believing in Iron
Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947

The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load, 
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Ghost Story
Matthew Dickman, 1975
for matthew z and matthew r
I remember telling the joke
about child molestation and seeing
the face of the young man
I didn't know well enough 
turn from something with light
inside of it into something like
an animal that's had its brain
bashed in, something like that, some
sky inside him breaking 
all over the table and the beers.
It's amazing, finding out
my thoughtlessness has no bounds,
is no match for any barbarian, 
that it runs wild and hard
like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande.
No, the Columbia. A great river
of thorns and when this stranger
stood up and muttered
something about a cigarette, 
the Hazmat team 
in my chest begins to cordon 
off my heart, glowing
a toxic yellow, 
and all I could think about
was the punch line "sexy kids,"
that was it, "sexy kids," and all the children
I've cared for, wiping
their noses, rocking them to sleep,
all the nieces and nephews I love, 
and how no one ever 
opened me up like a can of soup
in the second grade, the man
now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering
his body, a ghost unable 
to hold his wrists down 
or make a sound like a large knee in between 
two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
After Bombardment, Sonya
Ilya Kaminsky, 1977
I scrub and lather him like a salmon
until he spits 
soapy water. "Pig" I smile—

This man smells better than his country
I throw his shoes 
and glasses in the air,

take off his t-shirt and socks, and kneel 
in honor of Sasha Petrov 
who was amputated, in honor of Lesha Vatkii the taken.

I dip a glass in a bath-tub,
drink dirty water.
Soaping together—that 

is sacred to me. Washing mouths together. 
You can fuck 
anyone—but with whom can you sit in water?

And the cuddling up
before sleep!—and back-scratching
in the morning. My back, not yours!

I knew I had caught the fish            
and he knew he had been caught. 
He sings as I dry his chest & penis

"Sonya, I was a glad man with you—"
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Four Poems for Robin
Gary Snyder, 1930
Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest

I slept under     rhododendron
All night    blossoms fell
Shivering on	a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck   in my pack
Hands deep    in my pockets
Barely  able    to   sleep.
I remembered    when we were in school
Sleeping together   in a big warm bed
We were     the youngest lovers
When we broke up     we were still nineteen
Now our   friends are married
You teach  school back east
I dont mind     living this way
Green hills   the long blue beach
But sometimes	  sleeping in the open
I think back    when I had you.

      A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.

    An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji

Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.

           December at Yase

You said, that October, 
In the tall dry grass by the orchard 
When you chose to be free, 
"Again someday, maybe ten years."

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have 
Gone by: I've always known
         where you were-- 
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn't.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had 
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my 
        karma demands.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of the Sea
Cecilia Woloch

I was leaving a country of rain for a country of apples. I hadn't much time. I told my beloved to wear his bathrobe, his cowboy boots, a black patch like a pirate might wear over his sharpest eye. My own bags were full of salt, which made them shifty, hard to lift. Houses had fallen, face first, into the mud at the edge of the sea. Hurry, I thought, and my hands were like birds. They could hold nothing. A feathery breeze. Then a white tree blossomed over the bed, all white blossoms, a painted tree. "Oh," I said, or my love said to me. We want to be human, always, again, so we knelt like children at prayer while our lost mothers hushed us. A halo of bees. I was dreaming as hard as I could dream. It was fast—how the apples fattened and fell. The country that rose up to meet me was steep as a mirror; the gold hook gleamed.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
Rachel Zucker
A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and 
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was 
happy to see him and said, "what nice new feet you have on."
—paraphrase of a story in Mouse Tails by Arnold Lobel

hey, listen, a bad thing happened to 
my friend's marriage, can't tell you
only can tell my own story which 
so far isn't so bad:

"Dad" and I stay married.  so far.
so good.  so so.

But it felt undoable. This lucky life
every day, every day. every. day.

(all the poetry books the goddamn same
until one guys gets up and stuns the audience)

Then, Joe Wenderoth, not by a long shot
sober says, I promised my wife I wouldn't fuck
anyone, to no one in particular and reads a poem 
about how Jesus has no penis.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, attractive in a fatherly 
way, says libido question mark.

And your libido?
like a father, but not like mine, or my sons'—

"fix it."

My friend's almost written 
a good novel by which I mean finished 
which means I'd like to light myself 
on fire, on fire
with envy, this isn't "desire" 
not what the Dr. meant
by libido?
                        I hope—

not, it's just chemical:
            jealousy. boredom. lethargy.

 

Books with prominent seraphs: their feet feet feet I am
marching to the same be—

other

than the neuronic slave I thought anxiety made me 
do it, made me get up and carry forth, sally 
the children to school the poems dragged 
by little hands on their little seraphs 
to the page my marriage sustained, remaining 
energy: project #1, project #2, broken 
fixtures, summer plans, demand met, request 
granted, bunny noodles with and without cheesy 
at the same time, and the night time I insomnia 
these hours penning invisible letters—

            till it stopped.

doc said: it's a syndrome.        you've got it, 
                                      classic.

it's chemical,
mental

circuitry we've got a fix for this
classic, I'm saying I can

make it better.

Everything was the same, then,
but better.

At night I slept.
In the morning got up.

Kids to school, husband still a fool-
hardy spirit makes
me pick a monday morning fight, snipe! I'll pay for that
later I'm still a pain in the 
elbow from writing prose those shift+hold+letter, 
I'm still me less sleepy, crazy, I suppose
less crazy-jealous just
ha-ha now at Jesus' no penis his
amazed at the other poet's kickass
friend's novel I dream instead about
the government makes me put stickers
on my driver's license of family members
who are Jews, and mine all are.  Can they get us 
all? I escape with a beautiful light-haired man,
blue-eyed day trader, gentile. 
 

gentle, gentle, mind encased in its 
blood-brain barrier from the harsh skull
sleep,  sleep and sleepy wake and want 
to sleep and sleep a steep dosage— 

            "—chemical?"

in my dreams now every man's mine, no-
problem, perhaps my mind's a little plastic, 
malleable, not so fatal now 

the dose is engineered like that new genetic watercress
to turn from green to red when planted over buried 
mines, nitrogen dioxide makes for early autumn
red marks the spot where I must 
watch my step, up one half-step-dose specific—


            The psychiatrist's lived in NY so long
            he's of ambiguous religious—
            everyone's Jewish sometimes—
            writes: "up the dosage."


now,
when I'm late I just shrug
it's my new improved style
missed the train? I tug
the two boys single file

the platform a safe aisle
between disasters, blithely
I step, step, step-lively
carefully, wisely.

I sing silly ditties 
play I spy something pretty
grey-brown-metal-filthy
for a little city fun.

Just one way to enjoy life's 
trials, mile after mile, lucky
to have such dependable feet.

you see,
the rodents don't frighten I'm
calm as can be expected to recover left to my 
one devivces I was twice as fast getting everywhere but
where did that get me but there, that inevitable location
more waiting, the rats there scurry, scurry, a furry

till the next train comes

"up the dosage."

Brown a first-cut brisket in hot Dutch oven 
after dusting with paprika.  Remove.  Sauté 
thickly sliced onions and add wine. (Sweet 
is better, lasts forever, never need a new bottle). 
Put the meat on onions, cover with tomato-sauce-
onion-soup-mix mixture, cover. Back in a low 
oven many hours.

The house smells like meat.
My hair smells like meat. 

I'm a light unto the nation.

I'm trying 
to get out of Egypt.
This year, 
I'll  be better.

Joseph makes sense of the big man's dreams, is saved,
saves his brothers those jealous boys who sold him 
sold them all as slaves. Seven years of plenty.  Seven
years of famine.  He insomnias the nights counting up
grains, storing, planning, for what? They say throw 
the small boys in the river (and mothers do so). Smite 
the sons (and fathers do it.) God says take off your shoes,
this holy ground this pitiful, incombustible bush.

Is God chemical?  
Enzymatic of our great need to chaos?

We're unforgivable. 
People of the salted
cheeks.  Slap, turn, slap.

To be chosen 
is to be 
unforgiving/ unforgiv-
en, always chosen: 
be better.

The Zuckers are a long line of obsessives. 

This served them well in war time saw it 
coming in time that unseeable thing they 
hoarded they ferried, schemed, paced, got the hell 
out figured out at night, insomnia, how to visa—

now, if it happens again, I won't be 
ready

I'm "better."

The husband, a country club Jew from Denver, American
intelligentsia will have to carry me out and he's no big 
man and I'm not a small girl how fast

can the doctor switch the refugee gene back on?


How fast can I get worse?  Smart again and worse?

Better to be alive than better.  

            "...listen:" says the doctor, "sleeping isn't death.  
            All children unlearn this fear you got confused 
            thought thinking was the same as spinning—"             
            Writes: "up the dosage."  
            don't think.  this refugee thing part
            of a syndrome fear of medication of being better...

Truth is, the anti-obsessional medicine works 
wonders and drags me through life's course...

About this time of year but years ago the priests spread 
rumors of blood libel. Jews huddled in basements accused 
of using Christian babes' blood to make unleavened bread.

signs and wonders.
Christ rises.

Blood and body and babes.
Basements and briskets 
and bread of afflictions.

I am calm now with my pounds of meat 
made and frozen, my party schedule, my pills 
of liberation, my gentile dream-boy, American 
passport, my grey haired-psychiatrist, my blue-
eyed son, my brown-eyed son, my poems on their 
pretty little fleet-feet, my big shot friends, olive-skinned 
husband, my right elbow on fire: fire inside deep in the nerve 
from too much carrying and word-mongering, smithery, bearing 
and tensing choosing to be better to live this real life this better orbit this Jack

Kerouac never loved you like you wanted. 
Blake.
Buddha. 
Only Jesus and that's his shtick,
he loves

everyone: smile! that's it,
for the camera, blood pressure
normal, better, you're a poster child
for signs and wonders what a little chemistry
does for the brain, blood, thought, hey,

did you know that Pharaoh actually wanted
to let them go?  those multitude Jews
but God hardened Pharaoh's heart against them [Jews]
to prove his prowess show his signs, wonders, outstretched 
hand, until the dosage was a perfect ten and then 
some, sea closing up around those little chariots
the men and horses while women on the far shore shook 
their tambourines.  And then what?  Forty years to get the smell
of slavery off them. 

Because of this. Bloody Nile. My story one of
the lucky.  Escape hatch even from my own
obsess—

            I am here because of this.
Because of what my ancestors did for me to tell this
story of the outstretched hand what it did for me this
marked door and behind this red-marked door, around 
a corner a blue-eyed boy waits to love me up with his 
leavened bread, his slim body, professional detachment, 
medical advancements, forgive me my father's mother's
father was the last in a long line of Rabbis—again! with this? This
rhapsody of affliction and escape, the mind bobbing along
in its watery safe. Be like everyone. Else. Indistinguishable but
better than the other nations but that's what got us into this, Allen,
no one writes these long-ass poems anymore.  Now we're
better, all better.  All Christian.  Kind. 
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Chicago
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967
        Hog Butcher for the World,
        Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
        Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
        Stormy, husky, brawling,
        City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your
     painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: yes, it is true I have seen
     the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women
     and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my
     city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be
     alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall
     bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted
     against the wilderness,
        Bareheaded,
        Shoveling,
        Wrecking,
        Planning,
        Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his 
     ribs the heart of the people,
             Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
     sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Water
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 - 1882
The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Bus through Jonesboro, Arkansas
Matthew Henriksen
Inanimate intimacy in the plural
Couples under their dark covers

The distance between one body and another
An echo chamber against every stone

The distance between lovers in a rock-lashing wave
The solitude of two together under the waters of night

Or the flattened space between two people on a bus 
Talking above the low beams of a few lost trucks

Seeking their destruction or their portion elsewhere
A road imagined as a slick for words in a discrete stream

Flawless enamel the tongue slides along
Or skates off into a future illumined within a highway sign

At the lip of revelation comes denouement or slow torturous sleep
Because traveling does not follow music

Only music brings the body down from the sky
The solid body in its partial form
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
First Light Edging Cirrus
Jane Hirshfield, 1953
1025 molecules
are enough 
to call woodthrush or apple.

A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.

An alphabet's molecules,
tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
cannot be counted—

as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.

As it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out face to face in every direction.

Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Poetry in Time of War
Rosalind Brackenbury
I want to forget their names, the generals,
advisors, puppet rulers,
the puffed-up and the brought-low,

I want not to know them,
not hear their plans, their excuses,
the President and the President's men,
the Pope with his white smoke for voodoo,

the suits, ties, teeth, insignia,
the guns, the names of trucks and weapons. 

I want to forget them all, 
to be washed of them,
to begin again: where no one knows who anyone is, 
or what he believes. 

To give my attention to:
frangipani leaves uncurling, 
the smell of  jasmine,
one person helping another across a street;  

to the seeds,
to the beginnings; to one clear word for which
there is no disguise and no alternative.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
I Sit and Sew
Alice Dunbar-Nelson
I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—
The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.

I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.

The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need, me, Christ! It is no roseate seam
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Spring Storm
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963
The sky has given over 
its bitterness. 
Out of the dark change 
all day long 
rain falls and falls 
as if it would never end. 
Still the snow keeps 
its hold on the ground. 
But water, water 
from a thousand runnels! 
It collects swiftly, 
dappled with black 
cuts a way for itself 
through green ice in the gutters. 
Drop after drop it falls 
from the withered grass-stems 
of the overhanging embankment.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Noble Nature
Ben Jonson, 1572 - 1637
     It is not growing like a tree	
     In bulk, doth make man better be;	
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,	
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:	
          A lily of a day	        
          Is fairer far in May,	
     Although it fall and die that night—	
     It was the plant and flower of Light.	
In small proportions we just beauties see;	
And in short measures life may perfect be.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Come My Cantilations
Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
Come my cantilations,
Let us dump our hatreds into one bunch and be done with them,
Hot sun, clear water, fresh wind,
Let me be free of pavements,
Let me be free of the printers.
Let come beautiful people
Wearing raw silk of good colour,
Let come the graceful speakers,
Let come the ready of wit,
Let come the gay of manner, the insolent and the exulting.
We speak of burnished lakes,
And of dry air, as clear as metal.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
In a Station of the Metro
Ezra Pound, 1885 - 1972
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Arts & Sciences
Philip Appleman, 1926
"Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education." —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here's a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I'm convex. BOTANY Your thighs always blossomed like orchids, You had rose hips when we danced, But the question that always baffled me was: How can I get into those plants? ECONOMICS Diversification's a virtue, And as one of its multiple facets, when we're merging, it really won't hurt you To share your disposable assets. GEOGRAPHY Russian you would be deplorable, But your Lapland is simply Andorrable So my Hungary fantasy understands Why I can't keep my hands off your Netherlands. LIT. SURVEY Alexander composed like the Pope, Swift was of course never tardy, And my Longfellow's Wildest hope Is to find you right next to my Hardy. PHYSICS If E is how eager I am for you, And m is your marvelous body, And c means the caring I plan for you, Then E = Magna Cum Laude. MUSIC APPRECIATION You're my favorite tune, my symphony, So please do me this favor: Don't ever change, not even a hemi- Demi-semiquaver. ART APPRECIATION King Arthur, betrayed by Sir Lancelot, Blamed the poets who'd praised him, and spake: "That knight's nights are in the Queen's pantsalot, So from now on your art's for Art's sake." ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM I couldn’t do Goyas or Grecos, And my Rembrandts had zero panache, But after I junked all my brushes, My canvases made quite a splash. PHILOSOPHY 1. Blaise Pascal Pascal, reflecting tearfully On our wars for the Holy Pigeon, Said, "Alas, we do evil most cheerfully When we do it for religion." 2. René Descartes The unruly dactyls and anapests Were thumping their wild dithyrambic When Descartes with a scowl very sternly stressed: "I think, therefore iambic!" 3. Thomas Hobbes Better at thinking than loving, He deserved his wife's retort: On their wedding night, she told him, "Tom, That was nasty, brutish – and short!"

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
Whoever you are, holding me now in hand,   
Without one thing, all will be useless,   
I give you fair warning, before you attempt me further,   
I am not what you supposed, but far different.   
   
Who is he that would become my follower? 
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?   
   
The way is suspicious—the result uncertain, perhaps
     destructive;   
You would have to give up all else—I alone would expect
     to be your God, sole and exclusive,   
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,   
The whole past theory of your life, and all conformity to the
     lives around you, would have to be abandon'd;
Therefore release me now, before troubling yourself any further—
     Let go your hand from my shoulders,   
Put me down, and depart on your way.   
   
Or else, by stealth, in some wood, for trial,   
Or back of a rock, in the open air,   
(For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not—nor
     in company, 
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or
     dead,)   
But just possibly with you on a high hill—first watching
     lest any person, for miles around, approach unawares,   
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea,
     or some quiet island,   
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,   
With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss, or the new husband's kiss, 
For I am the new husband, and I am the comrade.   
   
Or, if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,   
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart, or rest upon your hip,   
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;   
For thus, merely touching you, is enough—is best,
And thus, touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried
     eternally.   
   
But these leaves conning, you con at peril,   
For these leaves, and me, you will not understand,   
They will elude you at first, and still more afterward—I will
     certainly elude you,   
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.   
   
For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written
     this book,   
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,   
Nor do those know me best who admire me, and vauntingly praise me,   
Nor will the candidates for my love, (unless at most a very few,)
     prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only—they will do just as much evil,
     perhaps more;   
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times
     and not hit—that which I hinted at;   
Therefore release me, and depart on your way.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Of the Surface of Things
Wallace Stevens, 1879 - 1955
I

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
        hills and a cloud.

II

From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
"The spring is like a belle undressing."

III

The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Queer
Frank Bidart, 1939
Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.

Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

                 *

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

                 *

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

                 *

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror.

                 *

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life.  You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Quiet
Tony Hoagland, 1953
Prolonged exposure to death 
Has made my friend quieter.

Now his nose is less like a hatchet
And more like a snuffler.

Flames don't erupt from his mouth anymore
And life doesn't crack his thermometer.

Instead of overthrowing the government
He reads fly-fishing catalogues

And takes photographs of water.
An aphorist would say	

The horns of the steer have grown straighter.
He has an older heart 

that beats younger.
His Attila the Hun imitation 

Is not as good as it used to be.
Everything else is better.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
My Heart Leaps Up
William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850
My heart leaps up when I behold 
   A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began; 
So is it now I am a man; 
So be it when I shall grow old, 
   Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Two Minus One
Gregory Sherl
for Maple

She called to say she lost it. She wasn't pregnant long enough for the leaves to go crisp, toasted almost brown. They were still gold, still burning themselves orange. I don't understand I said out loud & between the joints in my fingers. We should call the police, file a missing person's report. I'll put flyers around the block. I'll find her.. I have a flashlight, canned food that'll last for months, a backpack that straps around my waist. I have beard stubble. My eyesight has been perfect since birth, so spread open—I'll climb inside. In the nighttime, they keep the lights on at cemeteries so the dead can find their beds again. Some things stay too small ever to be buried. I've got the police on speed dial, but how do you pick out your embryo? It was there just hours ago. They put jelly below her stomach. There was an agreement that something was inside her: ghosts shaped as shipwrecks barely moving. Leaving nature we still keep it. My favorite part of the future would have been my daughter's ears studded like the buds of chrysanthemums. I couldn't pick out a linden tree in a police lineup, if the lineup went linden tree, parachute, Boy George, maple tree, orange grove—so how would I pick out my embryo in a lineup that went embryo, embryo, polar bear, embryo, winter? What did your embryo look like? Like the cover of a book no one would read. Like gleaming.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Smell
William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963

Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them. With what deep thirst
we quicken our desires
to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors
for something less unlovely? What girl will care
for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
Must you have a part in everything?

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Gila
Rigoberto González, 1970

It's no curse
        dragging my belly across
                the steaming sand all day.
        I'm as thick as a callus
                that has shorn off its leg.

If you find me I can explain
        the trail made by a single limb.

                I am not a ghost.
Do not be afraid.

Though there are ghosts here—
        they strip down to wind
                or slump against rock to evaporate.

        Sometimes I crawl beneath the shedding,
backing up into the flesh pit for shade.
        Praise the final moisture of the mouth, its crown
                of teeth that sparkles with silver or gold.

I make a throne of the body
        until it begins to decay.

                And then I'll toss the frock—
death by hunger, death by heat—
        off the pimples of my skin.

        Don't you dare come into my kingdom,
peasant, without paying respect on your knees!

        What generous act did I commit
in my previous life, that I should be
                rewarded with this paradise:

a garden in which every tree that takes root here
        drops its fruit eye-level to me.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Quiet the Dog, Tether the Pony
Marilyn Chin
        A lament for Don (1958-2011)

Gaze     gaze      beyond the vermilion door

Leaf      leaf       tremble    fall

Stare blankly      at the the road's      interminable end



Reduplications     cold      cold     mountains

Long     long    valleys          broad    broad     waters

Tears     are exhausted      now    shed    blood



Deep    deep     the baleful courtyards     who knows how deep

Folds on folds       of curtains

Gates         trap        infinite      twilight



Walk     walk        through     waning meadows

Steep     steep        toward       ten-thousand Buddhas

Knuckles     blue     on the balustrade



In the land of      missing      pronouns

Sun     is a     continuous     performance

And we      my lover      are      nothing

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Iscariot Rising Sutra
Ben Kopel

Someone went away / but once they were here / so I don't die / instead I see a movie / the one about a boy / falling into / the green screen / sky lit up / phosphorescent / spiders and chandeliers / like that one time / near an island / out on the lash / I fell out of you / you laughed / your eyes closed / spread wide / standing open / I asked you / who are you / pretending I am / I did / you said / I'm pretending you / are you / drawing a jacked up heart / across my hand / in every airport / rocking this depression electric / I dry swallow / a video pill / we smoke glitter / until my suit sounds good / I long to be alive / when the world ends / so in love / with someone / I end up / ending everyone

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Twenty Questions
Jim Moore

Did I forget to look at the sky this morning
when I first woke up? Did I miss the willow tree?
The white gravel road that goes up from the cemetery,
but to where? And the abandoned house on the hill, did it get
even a moment? Did I notice the small clouds so slowly
moving away? And did I think of the right hand
of God? What if it is a slow cloud descending
on earth as rain? As snow? As shade? Don't you think
I should move on to the mop? How it just sits there, too often
unused? And the stolen rose on its stem?
Why would I write a poem without one?
Wouldn't it be wrong not to mention joy? Sadness,
its sleepy-eyed twin? If I'd caught the boat
to Mykonos that time when I was nineteen
would the moon have risen out of the sea
and shone on my life so clearly
I would have loved it
just as it was? Is the boat
still in the harbor, pointing
in the direction of the open sea? Am I
still nineteen? Going in or going out,
can I let the tide make of me
what it must? Did I already ask that?

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
The Balloon of the Mind
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Hands, do what you're bid:
Bring the balloon of the mind
That bellies and drags in the wind
Into its narrow shed.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Somewhere between here and Belen
Jay Wright, 1935

Somewhere between here and Belen,
the Rio Grande will narrow to a muddy bead,
no more than three feet across from shore to shore.
My friend, Nick Markulis, claims
he loves the river's color there, and will bathe
his toes in the water, and will go on and on
about a dry river in Athens that measures its life
                                   in olive groves.
Stratis Thalassinos told me about these peculiar
waters that disappear and turn up again,
and, of course, you know of Arethusa's
fountain in Syracuse.
I do not accuse Markopoulos (do I have
the name right? — Markopoulos, Markulis,
fugitive names, fugitive lives docking in Halifax)
of being too conversant with asphodel meadows,
but one cannot remain composed
when hunters and cultic figures press their claims
upon a sainted afternoon.
Think now of the intimate authority of La Candelaria,
the Sunday morning concert,
the walk through the abandoned streets,
where all was an occasion of Bogotá,
a memory of Mazatlán, a shaping
necessity we might have met at Salamis.
Who can be sure
that this white cloth will be dissolved by death?

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Obscurity and Selfhood
C. D. Wright, 1949

Not far
from a college.
Nevertheless.
A man
living by himself

kept his fighting cocks in plain sight. Each had its own tether and
miniature shed and dish with embossed sobriquet. Their domestication
reserved for battle before the table. Gallus gallus domesticus. A young
male, a cockerel, my husband's patronymic before the adoption. Some hens
are disposed to poach another's egg. Once there were teeth. Given certain
conditions they could come back. If not a full set. Even now a breathing hole
has to be pipped for the offspring to break out. This is done with an egg tooth.
Not a true tooth. Love among the chickens involves a circle dance. He is
a wonderful dancer. It goes straight to her brain. Before and after they prefer
to wash off in dust. Ashes will work if no dust. If they aren't forced into shedding
one another's blood, they can live until their heart gives out.
The cock
the man
could not
resist
loving.
He withdrew
from
the ring.
Yet
relinquished.
To settle
an unforgiven
debt.

My question is this:
Would you describe yourself
as a wanderer, a friend of the court, amicus curiae, falsely construed as a snitch, a blue yodeler,
   an apostate, a lost cause, a bird in the house, a biter, a common blogger, a contender, a purse
   snatcher, a false witness, a palterer, a silkie, a backyarder, channeler
for malevolent spirits, girt in the loins, figure on a shard of black pottery, moderately active, a fog
   machine, a visionary miserabilist, a chook or a cuckold, a roundhead, a little seditious, a slow-wave
   sleeper, a dead mule, a gongorist, honey on the comb, half goat half god, a white throwback, crossed
   with a mongrel, a genesis, a retired fighting
cock,
a doll
named
Memphis.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
White T-shirt
Lewis Ellingham

                                        I caught sight of it at a bus stop:
a white T-shirt, though
                                                     it was partly covered by
     the turning form of a lanky youth massed
                with other human forms intent upon
          boarding the bus on which
                                I was riding, tucked in a corner seat on
                the last row of seats on the bus, the right side, sheltered,
        watching the surge as it entered the double rear doors that
                        soon welcomed as a bottleneck the half dozen
     new passengers — tall, he walked back along the aisle until he stood
                                maybe a dozen feet from me, holding a rail
      with one hand (the right), the other arm dangling, his hips relaxed,
every color — hair, eyebrows, lashes, half-day beard shadow,
        heavy cotton pants, a
jacket dangling from the dangling left arm — black except for his
      white T-shirt, unornamented, the folds from his twist
           as he stood, deep drapery folds, the cotton heavier than ordinary
     for such a garment, the trim at waist and short sleeves the same material rolled,
      eye-catching for its clean bright whiteness, hinting at his beauty, and
                        beautiful in its self:                a white T-shirt, an
        object, he
                                would move slightly, the creases deepen
    as the twist deepened
                             slightly —
                                        at Castro, Market and 17th streets
        he got off, many did, many boarded, his eyes, a light brown, met mine through
                the bus window for a moment, the T-shirt at his neck white,
                                an object still


About this poem:
"The poem 'White T-shirt' records a San Francisco bus trip returning homeward from a cancer radiation treatment session at U. C. Hospital (Mt. Zion) mid-December 2012. I'd been writing poems 'about objects' for a month or so. The setting collected and intensified as I sat on the bus, and I wrote the poem immediately upon arriving home."

Lewis Ellingham
Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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The Forecast
Michael Dumanis

I carry myself out into the rainswept blur.
I lift my pleasant voice over the coming flood.
I have nothing to do that I’m going to do.
I keep meaning to purchase a dog. I keep waiting

to email you back. When I see you again will
I know who you are? Once I wove you a mask
of rattan and hair. Once I carved you a mask
of painted wood. I brushed my wooden leg

against your wooden leg. We had learned to imitate
each other’s breath. When I see you again will
you know who I am? Will you place your words back
into my open mouth? Once I held you for years

in the stones of my eyes. You were an ineluctable act of God.
Into the drainage ditch we hurled our toys.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Yours
Daniel Hoffman, 1923 - 2013

I am yours as the summer air at evening is
Possessed by the scent of linden blossoms,

As the snowcap gleams with light
Lent it by the brimming moon.

Without you I'd be an unleafed tree
Blasted in a bleakness with no Spring.

Your love is the weather of my being.
What is an island without the sea?

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
Ennui
Marianne Moore, 1887 - 1972

He often expressed
A curious wish,
To be interchangeably
Man and fish;
To nibble the bait
Off the hook,
Said he,
And then slip away
Like a ghost
In the sea.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Complaint of Achilles' Heel
Charles Jensen

Everyone’s so quick to blame my
tenderness. My wound opening like a mouth
to kiss an arrow’s steel beak.

A beautiful man, now, plants his face
in Trojan sand while I tell
the secrets of his body—

make the ground red with truth.
Red with the death of Achilles, felled
by an arrow’s bite when nothing—

nothing—could puncture his Kevlar skin.
Everyone skips ahead to the moral: don’t
be a heel. For just one day I felt

sun where the chafing bonds of sandal
should have been. Without me, he’d be
just more fodder for the cannon.

I made him a hero, Troy’s poster
boy. Everyone forgets I was part of him,
I needed him—that even as he died,

I tasted each pulse—
that I could not hold back its rush of red
birds or the season to which they flew.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
next
08/22/08
David Lehman, 1948

Today in 1862
Claude Debussy was born.
I remember where I was and what I was doing
one hundred years and two months later:
elementary algebra, trombone practice,
Julius Caesar on the record player
with Brando as Antony, simple
buttonhook patterns in football,
the French subjunctive, and the use
of "quarantine" rather than "blockade"
during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
It was considered the less belligerent word.
Much was made of it in 1962,
centenary of Debussy’s birth.
And if today I play his Rhapsody
for Saxophone and Orchestra

for the ten minutes it requires of
my undivided attention, who will attack me for
living in Paris in 1908 instead of now?
Let them. I'll take my stand,
my music stand, with the composer
of my favorite Danse Tarantelle.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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What's Left (Al-Mutanabbi Street)
Katrina Roberts

Tracery

Not nostalgia but the bluer salt of longing, not sentiment but the smutted sky raining bitter sediment, not our winding blunder down into that wound, not the ash-riddled grotto nor the blood-orange blown-open

Not the mineral rash’s voice dubbed across the final unspooling reel, not that, whatever promise the book held, not what she said or he did or they might next, not that, nor a flitter of birds, hands—lifting a cup, flipping a page, tucking a strand, nor the ear, behind which, filling with each sweet rising note or tinkling descent

Not the delicacy of a single wish, nor the now-cracked face of a once-ticking, once-pocketed watch


Stitch

No filament long enough

No longer meshing, days before and those after, teeth of a zipper left to gape

An idling car, a parked pick-up, who hides in plain light who hides and why, cloaked in a troubled forest of unsayable tint

And which human desire does this resemble, which cosseting vest to cross the heart, which chilled sweat, which strait-jacketed vestment, which surely-numbing drone between temples


Resist

Faith in what

No walls, no shelves

No end to the well’s filling, the far-away sea’s waxy surge in a hole dug by anyone no matter, a relentless urge to pick the itch, the ooze, the scab, the meniscus of every hour finally spilling over, over, over

Nothing
But sound, but imprinted air
No end to the fraught tingle of phantom-limbs forever-after-not-but-there


Scar

Splinters the alley’s new stuttering currency, pocked, crumbling, indiscriminate coinage of returning light, triage of needling memory, a narrow strait to navigate, some beast, uneasy passage of meat into pure spirit, and every anguished ether-shard hive-swarming then hushed

Not silent but charged:  listen...

Every letter, accounted for but in a different more urgent order

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Wine Tasting
Kim Addonizio, 1954 - 1954

I think I detect cracked leather.
I’m pretty sure I smell the cherries
from a Shirley Temple my father bought me

in 1959, in a bar in Orlando, Florida,
and the chlorine from my mother’s bathing cap.
And last winter’s kisses, like salt on black ice,

like the moon slung away from the earth.
When Li Po drank wine, the moon dove
in the river, and he staggered after.

Probably he tasted laughter.
When my friend Susan drinks
she cries because she’s Irish

and childless. I’d like to taste,
one more time, the rain that arrived
one afternoon and fell just short

of where I stood, so I leaned my face in,
alive in both worlds at once,
knowing it would end and not caring.

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Why Poetry Can Be Hard for Most People
Dorothea Lasky, 1978

Because speaking to the dead is not something you want to do
When you have other things to do in your day
Like take out the trash or use the vacuum
In the edge between the stove and cupboard
Because the rat is everywhere
Crawling around
Or more so walking
And it doesn’t even notice you
It has its own intentions
And is searching for that perfect bag of potato chips like you once were
Because life is no more important than eating
Or fucking
Or talking someone into fucking
Or talking someone into something
Or sleeping calmly and soundly
And all you can hope for are the people who put that calm in you
Or let you go into it with dignity
Because poetry reminds you
That there is no dignity
In living
You just muddle through and for what
Jack Jack you wrote to him
You wrote to all of us
I wasn’t even born
You wrote to me
A ball of red and green shifting sparks
In my parents’ eye
You wrote to me and I just listened
I listened I listened I tell you
And I came back
No
Poetry is hard for most people
Because of sound

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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My Childhood
Matthew Zapruder

the orange ball arcs perfectly into the orange hoop

making a sound like a drawer closing

you will never get to hold that

I am here and nothing terrible will ever happen

across the street the giant white house full of kids

turns the pages of an endless book

the mother comes home and finds the child animal sleeping

I left my notebook beside the bed

the father came home and sat and quietly talked

one square of light on the wall waiting patiently

I will learn my multiplication tables

while the woman in the old photograph looks in a different direction

Alvaro's Favorite Poems
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Vision
Robert Penn Warren, 1905 - 1989
I shall build me a house where the larkspur blooms
        In a narrow glade in an alder wood,
Where the sunset shadows make violet glooms,
        And a whip-poor-will calls in eerie mood.

I shall lie on a bed of river sedge,
        And listen to the glassy dark,
With a guttered light on my window ledge,
        While an owl stares in at me white and stark. 

I shall burn my house with the rising dawn,
        And leave but the ashes and smoke behind,
And again give the glade to the owl and the fawn,
        When the grey wood smoke drifts away with the wind.