poem index

DEEP Readings

DEEP Readings
next
Anybody Can Write a Poem
Bradley Paul
I am arguing with an idiot online.
He says anybody can write a poem.
I say some people are afraid to speak.
I say some people are ashamed to speak.
If they said the pronoun "I" 
they would find themselves floating
in the black Atlantic
and a woman would swim by, completely 
dry, in a rose chiffon shirt, 
until the ashamed person says her name
and the woman becomes wet and drowns
and her face turns to flayed ragged pulp,
white in the black water.
He says that he'd still write
even if someone cut off both his hands.
As if it were the hands that make a poem,
I say. I say what if someone cut out
whatever brain or gut or loin or heart
that lets you say hey, over here, listen, 
I have something to tell you all,
I'm different.
As an example I mention my mother
who loved that I write poems
and am such a wonderful genius.
And then I delete the comment
because my mother wanted no part of this or any
argument, because "Who am I 
to say whatever?"
Once on a grade school form
I entered her job as hairwasher.
She saw the form and was embarrassed and mad.
"You should have put receptionist."
But she didn't change it.
The last word she ever said was No.
And now here she is in my poem,
so proud of her idiot son, 
who presumes to speak for a woman
who wants to tell him to shut up, but can't.
DEEP Readings
next
Language
W. S. Merwin, 1927

Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.

DEEP Readings
next
Dream In Which I Meet Myself
Lynn Emanuel, 1949
Even the butter's a block of sleazy light. I see that first,
as though I am a dreary guest come to a dreary supper.
On her table, its scrubbed deal trim and lonely as a cot,
is food for one, and everything we've ever hated: a plate of pallid
grays and whites is succotash and chops are those dark shapes glaring up at us.
Are you going to eat this? I want to ask; she's at the stove dishing up,
wearing that apron black and stiff as burned bacon, reserved for maids and waitresses.
The dream tells us: She is still a servant. Even here.
So she has to clean our plate. It's horrible to watch.
She pokes the bits of stuff into her mouth. The roll's glued shut like a little box
with all that sticky butter. Is this all living gets you? The room, a gun stuck in your back?
Don't move, It says. She's at the bureau lining up bobby pins.
Worried and fed up I wander to the window
with its strict bang of blind. My eyes fidget and scratch.
And then I see myself: I am this dream's dog. I want out.
DEEP Readings
next
The Love-Hat Relationship
Aaron Belz
I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another's hats. 
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial. 
You don't necessarily even know the other person. 
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person 
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they're not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another. 
See if you can find something interesting about 
the personality of the person whose hat you like.
DEEP Readings
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. 
DEEP Readings
next
The Fist
Derek Walcott, 1930
The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.
DEEP Readings
next
Flying Fish: An Ode [excerpt]
Charles Wharton Stork
How must it be to swim among your kind, 
Dull with the cold and dreary with the dark, 
Enclosed above, beneath, before, behind 
In green uncertainty, from which a shark
At any time may dash 
And doom you like some huge demonic fate 
With lust insatiate?— 
He cuts the water with a seething gash;— 
What use to dart aside? 
Those great jaws, grinning wide, 
Will close your frolic as the long teeth clash.

But I forget your gift; the bonds that hold 
The others of your race are loosed for you, 
For you alone. The silver dolphin bold 
Shoots like a spray-haired comet from the blue, 
But may not poise or flit 
As you do—. What if but a minute's space? 
Hardly a longer grace 
Has poet, saint or lover. Nor a whit 
Less sure to sink are we; 
Our wings of ecstasy 
No loftier, no longer joy permit. 

Yet joy it is! to scorn the dread of death, 
To dwell for shining moments in the sun 
Of Beauty and sweet Love, to drink one breath 
Of a diviner element—though but one; 
To reach a higher state 
Of being, to explore a new domain; 
To leap, and leap again, 
Unheeding the gray menace of our fate 
That follows till we fall: 
For—fishes, men and all— 
The grim old Shark will have us, soon or late.
DEEP Readings
next
O Little Root of a Dream
Paul Celan, 1930 - 1970
O little root of a dream 
you hold me here 
undermined by blood, 
no longer visible to anyone, 
property of death.

Curve a face
that there may be speech, of earth, 
of ardor, of
things with eyes, even
here, where you read me blind,

even 
here, 
where you 
refute me, 
to the letter.
DEEP Readings
next
On the Persistence of the Letter as a Form
Paul Guest
Dear murderous world, dear gawking heart,
I never wrote back to you, not one word

wrenched itself free of my fog-draped mind
to dab in ink the day's dull catalog

of ruin. Take back the ten-speed bike
which bent like a child's cheap toy

beneath me. Accept as your own
the guitar that was smashed over my brother,

who writes now from jail in Savannah,
who I cannot begin to answer. Here

is the beloved pet who died at my feet 
and there, outside my window,

is where my mother buried it in a coffin
meant for a newborn. Upon

my family, raw and vigilant, visit numbness.
Of numbness I know enough.

And to you I've now written too much,
dear cloud of thalidomide,

dear spoon trembling at the mouth,
dear marble-eyed doll never answering back.
DEEP Readings
next
Dear Lonely Animal,
Oni Buchanan
I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean, 
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I've never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if 
they take turns who's first like carrying 

the flag in school. Carrying the flag 
way out in front and the others 
following along behind in two long lines, 

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow 
from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now 
and it's almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.  
Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano 
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday 

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard 
that the black widows live inside the volcano 
far down below in the high grasses that you can't 

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you 
that this morning the bells rang and I 
followed them and at the source of the bells, 

there I found so many animals 
all gathered together in a room 
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats 
for kneeling. And the animals were there 
singing together, all their voices singing, 

with big strong voices rising from even 
the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals 
come together and sing before, except in 

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass 
are pieced together into stories. Some days 
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can't sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.  
And then I think of all the medications 
and their side effects that are advertised 

between the pieces of news. And then I think 
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy 
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money 
buys the news, and what news 

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal.  

I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's 
hard to know what an animal will do when it 
stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just 

complicated—
DEEP Readings
next
Donal Og
Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory
Translated from an anonymous eighth-century Irish poem


It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday.
And myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith's forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you that put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!
DEEP Readings
next
Write About a Radish. . .
Karla Kuskin
Write about a radish
Too many people write about the moon.

The night is black
The stars are small and high
The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune
Hills gleam dimly
Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.