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Raymond McDaniel
Raymond McDaniel

Hothouse

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 25, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I think it’s beautiful and weird and dangerous that we name things according to what we see as their attributes (and attribute things according to names). ‘Hothouse’ is from a book about how we see, and everything that interferes with seeing.”
—Raymond McDaniel

Hothouse

A rose, rose. A violet, violet. A jade, jade.
No. The architecture of each, a refusal.

Rose is not rose nor violet violet nor jade jade.
But each is what it is, not what it seems.

What each seems is what of each gets seen.
Though what we see isn’t the thing seen.

The petals of the rose are violet and jade.
Thus the petals of the rose look, to us, rose.

The shape of the violet absorbs all but violet.
The violet we see is the violet a violet rejects.

A rose is a rose is a rose, but not as a rose.
Jade is the name of jade, not the jade named.
 

Copyright © 2016 by Raymond McDaniel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Raymond McDaniel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Classic Books of American Poetry

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American Poets
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poem

Vacation

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.
Rita Dove
1994
From the Archive: West Coast Reading
Robin Becker Postcard
poem

Travel

The railroad track is miles away, 
    And the day is loud with voices speaking, 
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day 
    But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by, 
    Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, 
But I see its cinders red on the sky, 
    And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make, 
    And better friends I'll not be knowing; 
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take, 
    No matter where it's going.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
1921