poem index

Intro to Poetry final

A collection of poems based on life.
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August, 1953
David Wojahn, 1953
A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
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had been howling but now could sleep.
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By this time I am gone—also gathered up
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& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.
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Outside, a scab commands a city bus. The picketers battle cops
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& ten thousand Soviet conscripts in goggles
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kneel & cover their eyes. Mushroom cloud above the Gobi,
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& slithering toward Stalin's brain, the blood clot
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takes its time. Ethel Rosenberg has rocketed
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to the afterlife, her hair shooting flame. The afterbirth
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is sloshing in a pail, steadied by an orderly who curses
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when the elevator doors stay shut: I am soul & body & medical waste
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foaming to the sewers of St. Paul. I am not yet aware
    *
of gratitude or shame.
                                I do know the light is everywhere.
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First Gestures
Julia Spicher Kasdorf, 1962
Among the first we learn is good-bye, 
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger 
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom, 
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield. 
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye, 
we're leaving," and her son stands firm 
sobbing, until at last he runs after her, 
among shoppers drifting like sharks 
who must drag their great hulks 
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories; 
imagine your life drawn on a map-- 
a scribble on the town where you grew up, 
each bus trip traced between school 
and home, or a clean line across the sea 
to a place you flew once. Think of the time 
and things we accumulate, all the while growing 
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging, 
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars 
for each place the world would not give 
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced 
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord 
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills 
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light-- 
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings 
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines 
across the wall of a tiny, white room 
where a girl makes love for the first time. 
Its leaves tremble like small hands 
against the screen while she weeps 
in the arms of her bewildered lover. 
She's too young to see that as we gather 
losses, we may also grow in love; 
as in passion, the body shudders 
and clutches what it must release.
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The Children's Hour
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882
Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
   That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!
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In View of the Fact
A. R. Ammons, 1926 - 2001
The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it's this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won't: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we'll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .
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What the Living Do
Marie Howe, 1950
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
 
waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
 
the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
 
I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
 
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
 
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.
 
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
 
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
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Live Blindly and Upon the Hour
Trumbull Stickney
Live blindly and upon the hour. The Lord, 
Who was the Future, died full long ago. 
Knowledge which is the Past is folly. Go, 
Poor, child, and be not to thyself abhorred. 
Around thine earth sun-winged winds do blow 
And planets roll; a meteor draws his sword; 
The rainbow breaks his seven-coloured chord 
And the long strips of river-silver flow: 
Awake! Give thyself to the lovely hours. 
Drinking their lips, catch thou the dream in flight 
About their fragile hairs' aerial gold. 
Thou art divine, thou livest,—as of old 
Apollo springing naked to the light, 
And all his island shivered into flowers.
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Because I could not stop for Death (712)
Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886
Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads 
Were toward Eternity – 
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Thanks
W. S. Merwin, 1927
Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is
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The Kiss
Stephen Dunn, 1939
She pressed her lips to mind.
	—a typo

How many years I must have yearned
for someone’s lips against mind.
Pheromones, newly born, were floating
between us. There was hardly any air.

She kissed me again, reaching that place
that sends messages to toes and fingertips,
then all the way to something like home.
Some music was playing on its own.

Nothing like a woman who knows
to kiss the right thing at the right time,
then kisses the things she’s missed.
How had I ever settled for less?

I was thinking this is intelligence,
this is the wisest tongue
since the Oracle got into a Greek’s ear,
speaking sense. It’s the Good,

defining itself. I was out of my mind.
She was in. We married as soon as we could.