poem index

Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011

Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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After
T. R. Hummer
After the explosion, no one knew what to do
For the boy who’d stood closest to the abandoned leather briefcase.
By some miracle, he was the only one injured. It erupted
In an incense of sulfur and nails as he made his way
To steal it. Holiness has an aura, everyone knows that,
But why would terrorists bother to murder a thief?
The ethics of this question paralyzed everyone in sight
While the boy, unable to breathe, watched God wandering
The station in a business suit, asking occasional strangers
Have you seen my briefcase? There was something urgent in it. 
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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From
A. Van Jordan

from (→) prep. 1. Starting at (a particular place or time): As in, John was from Chicago, but he played guitar straight from the Delta; he wore a blue suit from Robert Hall's; his hair smelled like coconut; his breath, like mint and bourbon; his hands felt like they were from slave times when he touched me—hungry, stealthy, trembling. 2. Out of: He pulled a knot of bills from his pocket, paid the man and we went upstairs. 3. Not near to or in contact with: He smoked the weed, but, surprisingly, he kept it from me. He ~aid it would make me too self-conscious, and he wanted those feelings as far away from us as possible; he said a good part of my beauty was that I wasn't conscious of my beauty. Isn't that funny? So we drank Bloody Mothers (Hennessey and tomato juice), which was hard to keep from him—he always did like to drink. Out of the control or authority of: I was released from my mama's house, from dreams of hands holding me down, from the threat of hands not pulling me up, from the man that knew me, but of whom I did not know; released from the dimming of twilight, from the brightness of morning; from the love I thought had to look like love; from the love I thought had to taste like love, from the love I thought I had to love like love. 5. Out of the totality of: I came from a family full of women; I came from a family full of believers; I came from a pack of witches—I'm just waiting to conjure my powers; I came from a legacy of lovers—I'm just waiting to seduce my seducer; I came from a pride of proud women, and we take good care of our young. 6. As being other or another than: He couldn't tell me from his mother; he couldn't tell me from his sister; he couldn't tell me from the last woman he had before me, and why should he—we're all the same woman. 7. With (some person, place, or thing) as the instrument, maker, or source: Here's a note from my mother, and you can take it as advice from me: A weak lover is more dangerous than a strong enemy; if you're going to love someone, make sure you know where they're coming from. 8. Because of: Becoming an alcoholic, learning to walk away, being a good speller, being good in bed, falling in love—they all come from practice. 9. Outside or beyond the possibility of: In the room, he kept me from leaving by keeping me curious; he kept me from drowning by holding my breath in his mouth; yes, he kept me from leaving till the next day when he said Leave. Then, he couldn't keep me from coming back.

Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Fish Fucking
Michael Blumenthal, 1949
This is not a poem about sex, or even
   about fish or the genitals of fish, 
So if you are a fisherman or someone interested
   primarily in sex, this would be as good a time
As any to put another worm on your hook 
   or find a poem that is really about fucking. 

This, rather, is a poem about language, 
   and about the connections between mind and ear
And the strange way a day makes its tenuous
   progress from almost anywhere. 

Which is why I've decided to begin with the idea
   of fish fucking (not literally, mind you, 
But the idea of fish fucking), because the other
   day, and a beautiful day it was, in Virginia
The woman I was with, commenting on the time
   between the stocking of a pond and the 

First day of fishing season, asked me if this
   was perhaps because of the frequency with which
Fish fuck, and—though I myself know nothing at all
   about the fucking of fish—indeed, I believe 

From the little biology I know that fish do not
   fuck at all as we know it, but rather the male
Deposits his sperm on the larvae, which the female, 
   in turn, has deposited—yet the question 
Somehow suggested itself to my mind as the starting
   point of the day, and from the idea of fish 

Fucking came thoughts of the time that passes
   between things and our experience of them, 
Not only between the stocking of the pond and our
   being permitted to fish in it, but the time, 

For example, that passes between the bouncing
   of light on the pond and our perception of the
Pond, or between the time I say the word jujungawop
   and the moment that word bounces against your 
Eardrum and the moment a bit further on when the
   nerves that run from the eardrum to the brain 

Inform you that you do not, in fact, know 
   the meaning of the word jujungawop, but this,
Perhaps, is moving a bit too far from the idea of 
   fish fucking and how beautifully blue the pond was 

That morning and how, lying among the reeds atop 
   the dam and listening to the water run under it, 
The thought occurred to me how the germ of an idea
   has little to do with the idea itself, and how 
It is rather a small leap from fish fucking to the
   anthropomorphic forms in a Miró painting, 

Or the way certain women, when they make love,
   pucker their lips and gurgle like fish, and how
This all points out how dangerous it is for a 
   man or a woman who wants a poet's attention 

To bring up an idea, even so ludicrous and 
   biologically ungrounded a one as fish fucking,
Because the next thing she knows the mind is taking 
   off over the dam from her beautiful face, off 
Over the hills of Virginia, perhaps as far as Guatemala 
   and the black bass that live in Lake Atitlán who 

Feast on the flightless grebe, which is not merely
   a sexual thought or a fishy one, but a thought 
About the cruelty that underlies even great beauty,
   the cruelty of nature and love and our lives which 

We cannot do without and without which even the idea
   of fish fucking would be ordinary and no larger than
Itself, but to return now to that particular day, and to 
   the idea of love, which inevitably arises from the 
Thought that even so seemingly unintelligent a creature
   as a fish could hold his loved one, naked in the water, 

And say to her, softly, Liebes, mein Lubes; it was 
   indeed a beautiful day, the kind filled with anticipation 
And longing for the small perfections usually found only 
   in poems; the breeze was slight enough just to brush 

A few of her hairs gently over one eye, the air was
   the scent of bayberry and pine as if the gods were
Burning incense in some heavenly living room, and
   as we lay among the reeds, our faces skyward, 
The sun fondling our cheeks, it was as if each 
   time we looked away from the world it took 

On again a precise yet general luminescence when we 
   returned to it, a clarity equally convincing as pain 
But more pleasing to the senses, and though it was not 
   such a moment of perfection as Keats or Hamsun 

Speak of and for the sake of which we can go on for 
   years almost blissful in our joylessness, it was 
A day when at least the possibility of such a thing 
   seemed possible: the deer tracks suggesting that 
Deer do, indeed, come to the edge of the woods to feed
   at dusk, and the idea of fish fucking suggesting 

A world so beautiful, so divine in its generosity 
   that even the fish make love, even the fish live 
Happily ever after, chasing each other, lustful 
   as stars through the constantly breaking water.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Ground Swell
Mark Jarman, 1952
Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,
Going on sixteen, like a corny song?
I see myself so clearly then, and painfully--
Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform
Behind the candy counter in the theater
After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically
To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me,
Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor's
Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt.
Is that all I have to write about?
You write about the life that's vividest.
And if that is your own, that is your subject.
And if the years before and after sixteen
Are colorless as salt and taste like sand--
Return to those remembered chilly mornings,
The light spreading like a great skin on the water,
And the blue water scalloped with wind-ridges,
And--what was it exactly?--that slow waiting
When, to invigorate yourself, you peed
Inside your bathing suit and felt the warmth
Crawl all around your hips and thighs,
And the first set rolled in and the water level
Rose in expectancy, and the sun struck
The water surface like a brassy palm,
Flat and gonglike, and the wave face formed.
Yes. But that was a summer so removed
In time, so specially peculiar to my life,
Why would I want to write about it again?
There was a day or two when, paddling out,
An older boy who had just graduated
And grown a great blonde moustache, like a walrus,
Skimmed past me like a smooth machine on the water,
And said my name. I was so much younger,
To be identified by one like him--
The easy deference of a kind of god
Who also went to church where I did--made me
Reconsider my worth. I had been noticed.
He soon was a small figure crossing waves,
The shawling crest surrounding him with spray,
Whiter than gull feathers. He had said my name
Without scorn, just with a bit of surprise
To notice me among those trying the big waves
Of the morning break. His name is carved now
On the black wall in Washington, the frozen wave
That grievers cross to find a name or names.
I knew him as I say I knew him, then,
Which wasn't very well. My father preached
His funeral. He came home in a bag
That may have mixed in pieces of his squad.
Yes, I can write about a lot of things
Besides the summer that I turned sixteen.
But that's my ground swell. I must start
Where things began to happen and I knew it.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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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.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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On the Beach at Night Alone
Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
On the beach at night alone,	 
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,	
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.	 
  
A vast similitude interlocks all,	 
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets	
All distances of place however wide,	 
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,	 
All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,	 
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,	   
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,	 
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe,	 
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,	 
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd, 
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Dreams
Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967
Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Lullaby in Blue
Betsy Sholl
   The child takes her first journey
through the inner blue world of her mother's body,
   blue veins, blue eyes, frail petal lids.

   Beyond that unborn brackish world so deep
it will be felt forever as longing, a dream
   of blue notes plucked from memory's guitar,

   the wind blows indigo shadows under streetlights,
clouds crowd the moon and bear down on the limbs
   of a blue spruce. The child's head appears—

   midnight pond, weedy and glistening—
draws back, reluctant to leave that first home.  
   Blue catch in the mother's throat,

   ferocious bruise of a growl, and out slides
the iridescent body—fish-slippery
   in her father's hands, plucked from water

   into such thin densities of air,
her arms and tiny hands stutter and flail,
   till he places her on her mother's body,

   then cuts the smoky cord, releasing her
into this world, its cold harbor below
   where a blue caul of shrink-wrap covers

   each boat gestating on the winter shore.
Child, the world comes in twos, above and below,
   visible and unseen. Inside your mother's croon

   there's the hum of an old man tapping his foot
on a porch floor, his instrument made from one
   string nailed to a wall, as if anything

   can be turned into song, always what is
and what is longed for. Against the window
   the electric blue of cop lights signals

   somebody's bad news, and a lone man walks
through the street, his guitar sealed in dark plush.
   Child, from this world now you will draw your breath

   and let out your moth flutter of blue sighs.
Now your mother will listen for each one,
   alert enough to hear snow starting to flake

   from the sky, bay water beginning to freeze.
Sleep now, little shadow, as your first world
   still flickers across your face, that other side

   where all was given and nothing desired.
Soon enough you'll want milk, want faces, hands,
   heartbeats and voices singing in your ear.

   Soon the world will amaze you, and you
will give back its bird-warble, its dove call,
   singing that blue note which deepens the song,

   that longing for what no one can recall,
your small night cry roused from the wholeness
   you carry into this broken world.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Couture
Mark Doty, 1953
1.

Peony silks,
	in wax-light:
		that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose
	candled into-
		what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?
	About gowns,
		the Old Masters,


were they ever wrong?
	This penitent Magdalen's
		wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous
	she seems to wear
		all she's renounced;

this boy angel
	isn't touching the ground,
		but his billow

of yardage refers
	not to heaven
		but to pleasure's

textures, the tactile
	sheers and voiles
		and tulles

which weren't made
	to adorn the soul.
		Eternity's plainly nude;

the naked here and now
	longs for a little
		dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer
	the invisible, every saint
		in the gallery

flaunts an improbable
	tumble of drapery,
		a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,
	satin's violin-sheen)
		raveled around the body's

plain prose; exquisite
	(dis?)guises; poetry,
		music, clothes.

2.

Nothing needs to be this lavish.
	Even the words I'd choose
		for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,
	tortoise, mottled, splotched
		-jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,
	all cloisonné and enamel,
		a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,
	brass buttons
		tumbling to the floor.

Who's it for?
	Who's the audience
		for this bravura?

Maybe the world's
	just trompe l'oeil,
		appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;
	who could see through this
		to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume's
	the whole show,
		all of revelation

we'll be offered.
	So? Show me what's not
		a world of appearances.

Autumn's a grand old drag
	in torched and tumbled chiffon
		striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow
	fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
		thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,
	those October damasks,
		the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,
	uncountable curtain calls
		in these footlights'

dusky, flattering rose.
	The world's made fabulous
		by fabulous clothes.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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A True Poem
Lloyd Schwartz, 1941
I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover.

Exactly.

Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them.

Some of it might bring misery.

And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I want everyone to love me.

Still, I keep working on it.

Why?

Why do I keep working on it? 

Nobody will ever see it. 

Nobody will ever see it.

I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody.

I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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La Coursier de Jeanne D'Arc
Linda McCarriston
You know that they burned her horse 
before her. Though it is not recorded,
you know that they burned her Percheron 
first, before her eyes, because you

know that story, so old that story, 
the routine story, carried to its 
extreme, of the cruelty that can make 
of what a woman hears a silence,

that can make of what a woman sees 
a lie. She had no son for them to burn, 
for them to take from her in the world 
not of her making and put to its pyre,

so they layered a greater one in front of 
where she was staked to her own-- 
as you have seen her pictured sometimes, 
her eyes raised to the sky. But they were

not raised. This is yet one of their lies. 
They were not closed. Though her hands 
were bound behind her, and her feet were 
bound deep in what would become fire,

she watched. Of greenwood stakes 
head-high and thicker than a man's waist 
they laced the narrow corral that would not 
burn until flesh had burned, until

bone was burning, and laid it thick 
with tinder--fatted wicks and sulphur, 
kindling and logs--and ran a ramp 
up to its height from where the gray horse

waited, his dapples making of his flesh 
a living metal, layers of life 
through which the light shone out 
in places as it seems to through the flesh

of certain fish, a light she knew 
as purest, coming, like that, from within. 
Not flinching, not praying, she looked 
the last time on the body she knew

better than the flesh of any man, or child, 
or woman, having long since left the lap 
of her mother--the chest with its 
perfect plates of muscle, the neck

with its perfect, prow-like curve, 
the hindquarters'--pistons--powerful cleft 
pennoned with the silk of his tail. 
Having ridden as they did together

--those places, that hard, that long-- 
their eyes found easiest that day 
the way to each other, their bodies 
wedded in a sacrament unmediated

by man. With fire they drove him 
up the ramp and off into the pyre 
and tossed the flame in with him. 
This was the last chance they gave her

to recant her world, in which their power 
came not from God. Unmoved, the Men 
of God began watching him burn, and better, 
watching her watch him burn, hearing

the long mad godlike trumpet of his terror, 
his crashing in the wood, the groan 
of stakes that held, the silverblack hide, 
the pricked ears catching first

like driest bark, and the eyes. 
and she knew, by this agony, that she 
might choose to live still, if she would 
but make her sign on the parchment

they would lay before her, which now 
would include this new truth: that it 
did not happen, this death in the circle, 
the rearing, plunging, raging, the splendid

armour-colored head raised one last time
above the flames before they took him
--like any game untended on the spit--into
their yellow-green, their blackening red.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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"What Do Women Want?"
Kim Addonizio, 1954 - 1954
I want a red dress. 
I want it flimsy and cheap, 
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me. 
I want it sleeveless and backless, 
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store 
with all those keys glittering in the window, 
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old 
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, 
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. 
I want to walk like I'm the only 
woman on earth and I can have my pick. 
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm 
your worst fears about me, 
to show you how little I care about you 
or anything except what 
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body 
to carry me into this world, through 
the birth-cries and the love-cries too, 
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, 
it'll be the goddamned 
dress they bury me in.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Spring is like a perhaps hand
E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962
          III

Spring is like a perhaps hand 
(which comes carefully 
out of Nowhere)arranging 
a window,into which people look(while 
people stare
arranging and changing placing 
carefully there a strange 
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps 
Hand in a window 
(carefully to 
and fro moving New and 
Old things,while 
people stare carefully 
moving a perhaps 
fraction of flower here placing 
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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The Red Poppy
Louise Glück, 1943
The great thing
is not having 
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they 
govern me. I have 
a lord in heaven 
called the sun, and open 
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire 
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters, 
were you like me once, long ago, 
before you were human? Did you 
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never 
open again? Because in truth 
I am speaking now 
the way you do. I speak 
because I am shattered.
Our Favorite Poems English 223 Fall 2011
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Central Park, Carousel
Meena Alexander, 1951
June already, it's your birth month,
nine months since the towers fell.
I set olive twigs in my hair
torn from a tree in Central Park,
I ride a painted horse, its mane a sullen wonder.
You are behind me on a lilting mare.
You whisper--What of happiness?
Dukham, Federico. Smoke fills my eyes.
Young, I was raised to a sorrow song
short fires and stubble on a monsoon coast.
The leaves in your cap are very green.
The eyes of your mare never close.
Somewhere you wrote: Despedida.
If I die leave the balcony open!