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Jay Deshpande
Jay Deshpande

Actually Very Simple

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 9, 2016.
About this Poem 

“There is an art to holding onto beauty and an art to letting it go. I am far more desperately practiced in the former. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to set down my regular routines and travel very freely. I wanted to write a poem that could serve as testimony to that experience, but could also acknowledge its passing. Sometimes letting go of beauty yields the greatest beauty of all: returning to your life, to the warm rooms of the familiar, and seeing it turn wild and vivid in front of you.”
—Jay Deshpande

Actually Very Simple

He came back from halfway around the world like that,
tongue tied around him like a scarf. Everything set before him
set to bursting. The fear that what he’d seen—
what had been inside him—that one
clear note—now would slip away. He’d go back
to an electric life, stupid with administration.
How does one re-enter a calendar?
He was still in love with the yellow dirt seen at the hour
of the museum’s closing, two weeks before the Palio.
With the sound he almost certainly heard his blood make
as he ate the last bite of liver toast
and finished off his wine, at night, in a tower beside
a total field. Or the remarkable look
a girl had given the bushes at 3 a.m.
on a hill above the Aegean before she let him
pull her pool-soaked dress up above her thighs.
He was still in love with all the cataclysms in his flesh.
Even though none of that was real anymore.
And it was his human duty to go onward, forget it all,
get caught back up in the cloud of the thing.
The next morning he woke up, fully home,
ignorant as ever, just perhaps a light along the edge
of responsibility, the tasks that called him by a name.
As if their stress and weight existed only didn’t.
A brief glimpse, and then that part of what’s just in the mind
scampering back into undergrowth. (They called it capriola,
which was perfect.) And then—drawing himself out of bed
and lacing up his shoes. Getting out and running among
buildings, the stacked reds and blues of Brooklyn. Gaping
at the faces of his neighbors, or the way a leaf hangs,
or a swatch of pavement wet between parked cars.
Huffing widely at it, and running a little slower.
Gathering it all up into his mouth.

Copyright © 2016 by Jay Deshpande. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Jay Deshpande. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

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

collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

American Poets, Fall-Winter 2016
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Mount Rainier National Park
From the Archive: E. E. Cummings's Christmas Card
poem

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
    And wild and sweet 
    The words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And thought how, as the day had come, 
The belfries of all Christendom 
    Had rolled along 
    The unbroken song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Till ringing, singing on its way, 
The world revolved from night to day, 
    A voice, a chime, 
    A chant sublime 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Then from each black, accursed mouth 
The cannon thundered in the South, 
    And with the sound 
    The carols drowned 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

It was as if an earthquake rent 
The hearth-stones of a continent, 
    And made forlorn 
    The households born 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And in despair I bowed my head; 
"There is no peace on earth," I said; 
    "For hate is strong, 
    And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
    The Wrong shall fail, 
    The Right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1865
poem

A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house  
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;  
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,  
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;  
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;  
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,  
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,  
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,  
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,  
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.  
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow  
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,  
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,  
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,  
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.  
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,  
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!  
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!  
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!  
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"  
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;  
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,  
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.  
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof  
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,  
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.  
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,  
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;  
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.  
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!  
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!  
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow  
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,  
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;  
He had a broad face and a little round belly,  
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.  
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;  
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,  
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;  
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,  
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,  
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;  
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,  
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,  
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

 

Clement Clarke Moore
1823