poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Wallace Stevens

The great poet came to me in a dream, walking toward me in a house
drenched with August light. It was late afternoon and he was old,

past a hundred, but virile, fit,leonine.  I loved that my seducer
had lived more than a century and a quarter.  What difference

does age make?  We began to talk about the making of poems, how
I craved his green cockatoo when I was young, named my Key West 

after his, like a parent naming a child  "George Washington." He was
not wearing the business suit I'd expected, nor did he have the bored

Rushmore countenance of the familiar portrait.  His white tee shirt
was snug over robust chest and belly, his golden hair long, his beard 

full as a biker's.  How many great poets ride a motorcycle?  We 
were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word 

to personate entirely thing:  "sea," ocean an August afternoon;  "elm,"
heartbreak of American boulevards after the slaughter  

of sick old beautiful trees.  "I have given up language," he said.
The room was crowded and noisy, so I thought I'd misheard.  

"Given up words?"  "Yes, but not poems," he said, whereupon 
he turned away, walking into darkness.  Then it was cooler, and 

we were alone in the gold room.  "Here is a poem," he said, proffering
a dry precisely formed leaf, on it two dead insects I recognized

as termites, next to them a tiny flag of scarlet silk no larger than 
the price sticker on an antique brooch.  Dusky red, though once 

bright, frayed but vivid.  Minute replica of a matador's provocation? 
Since he could read my spin of association, he was smiling, the glee

of genius.  "Yes," he said, "that is the poem."  A dead leaf?  His grin was
implacable. Dead, my spinner brain continued, but beautiful.  Edge 

curling, carp-shaped, color of  bronze or verdigris.  Not one, but two
termites—dead.  To the pleasures of dining on sill or floor joist, of 

eating a house, and I have sold my house.  I think of my friend finding
termites when she reached, shelf suddenly dust on her fingers,

library tumbling, the exterminator's bill.  Rapacious bugs devour, 
a red flag calls up the poem:  Blood.  Zinnia.  Emergency. Blackbird's

vermillion epaulet. Crimson of  manicure. Large red man reading,
handkerchief red as a clitoris peeking from his deep tweed pocket— 

Suddenly he was gone, gold draining from the walls, but the leaf,
the leaf was in my hand, and in the silence I heard an engine howl, 

and through the night that darkened behind the window, I saw 
light bolt forward, the tail of a comet smudge black winter sky. 

"Wallace Stevens" is reprinted from Red Shoes by Honor Moore. Copyright © 2005 Honor Moore. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"Wallace Stevens" is reprinted from Red Shoes by Honor Moore. Copyright © 2005 Honor Moore. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Honor Moore

by this poet

A plane tree, leaves green as if polished, 
the reddened tips of fruit trees, a stand
of cypress, and through the blackened green, 
a yellow field, slant of roof. Nearer, 
the castle gate, pale brick flecked with stone
like cream with nutmeg or cinnamon,  
and climbing, vermilion of roses.

As swallows shriek
She wore them with silk and black sheers,
Her winter legs twin moons under lace– 
New shoes. handmade, gleaming, polished
As a lake at twilight or a new mirror:
Fashioned for men, but cut for a woman.
He wanted her, he said, wearing those shoes.

Dreaming as they measure her shoeless,
A cobbler in Florence, his
all that autumn you step from the train

as if something were burning

something is burning

running across the green grass bare feet

that day death was only

what we lose in fall comes back in spring

something is burning

from the train you climb

smoke between the skyscrapers

Paris was so