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Feb. 4th, 2006

02:59 am - MMmmmmm, mmmmmmmmm, good.

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Here's to sharing poetical adventures! I had to restrain myself by only posting here the most recently discovered gems, and only one poem per poet, for now. Otherwise there would be dozens of more entries here. Hope you guys like'm as much as I do!

"A Consumer's Report"
― Peter Porter

The name of the product I tested is Life,
I have completed the form you sent me
and understand that my answers are confidential.
I had it as a gift,
I didn't feel much while using it,
in fact I think I'd have liked to be more excited.
It seemed gentle on the hands
but left an embarrassing deposit behind.
It was not economical
and I have used much more than I thought
(I suppose I have about half left
but it's difficult to tell) -
although the instructions are fairly large
there are so many of them
I don't which to follow, especially
as they seem to contradict each other.
I'm not sure such a thing
should be put in the way of children -
It's difficult to think of a purpose
for it. One of my friends says
it's just to keep its maker in a job.
Also the price is much too high.
Things are piling up so fast,
after all, the world got by
for thousand million years
without this, do we need it now?
(Incidentally, please ask your man
to stop calling me 'the respondent',
I don't like the sound of it.)
There seems to be a lot of different labels,
sizes and colours should be uniform,
the shape is awkward, it's waterproof
but not heat resistant, it doesn't keep
yet it's very difficult to get rid of:
whenever they make it cheaper they
to put less in - if you say you don't
want it, then it's delivered anyway.
I'd agree it's a popular product,
it's got into the language; people
even say they're on the side of it.
Personally I think it's overdone,
a small thing people are ready
to behave badly about. I think
we should take it for granted. If its
experts are called philosophers or market
researchers or historians, we shouldn't
care. We are the consumers and the last
law makers. So finally, I'd buy it.
But the question of a 'best buy'
I'd like to leave until I get
the competitive product you said you'd send.

"The Naughty Preposition"
― Morris Bishop

I lately lost a preposition;
It hid, I thought, beneath my chair
And angrily I cried “Perdition!
Up from out of in under there.”

Correctness is my vade mecum,
And straggling phrases I abhor.
And yet I wondered, “What should he come
Up from out of in under for?”

"The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly"
— Vachel Lindsay

Once I loved a spider
When I was born a fly,
A velvet-footed spider
With a gown of rainbow-dye.
She ate my wings and gloated.
She bound me with a hair.
She drove me to her parlor
Above her winding stair.
To educate young spiders
She took me all apart.
My ghost came back to haunt her.
I saw her eat my heart.

"Introduction to Poetry"
― Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

"Revolutionary Letter #46"
― Diane di Prima

And as you learn the magic, learn to believe it
Don't be 'surprised' when it works, you undercut
your power.

"Examination at the Womb-Door"
― Ted Hughes

Who owns those scrawny little feet? Death.
Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death.
Who owns these still-working lungs? Death.
Who owns this utility coat of muscles? Death.
Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.
Who owns these questionable brains? Death.
All this messy blood? Death.
These minimum-efficiency eyes? Death.
This wicked little tongue? Death.
This occasional wakefulness? Death.

Given, stolen, or held pending trial?

Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
Who owns all of space? Death.

Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.

But who is stronger than Death?
Me, evidently.
Pass, Crow.

― May Swenson

Stop bleeding          said the knife.
I would if I          could said the cut.
Stop bleeding          you make me messy with this blood.
I’m sorry said          the cut.
Stop or I will          sink in farther said the knife.
Don't said the          cut.
The knife did          not say it couldn't help it but it sank
                       in farther.
If only you          didn't bleed said the knife I wouldn't have to
                     do this.
I know said          the cut I bleed too easily I hate that I can't
help it I          wish I were a knife like you and didn't have
                   to bleed.
Meanwhile          stop bleeding will you said the knife.
Yes you          are a mess and sinking in farther said the cut I will
have to          stop.
Have you          stopped by now said the knife.
I've almost          stopped I think.
Why must you          bleed in the first place said the knife.
For the reason          maybe that you must do what you must 
                        do said the cut.
I can't stand           bleeding said the knife and sank in farther.
I hate it too          said the cut I know it isn't you it's me
you're lucky to          be a knife you ought to be glad
                         about that.
Too many cuts          around said the knife they're messy I
                       don't know
how they stand          themselves.
They don't said          the cut.
You're bleeding          again.
No i've stopped          said the cut.  See you're coming out 
                         now the
blood is drying          it will rub off you'll be shiny again 
                         and clean.
If only cuts          wouldn't bleed so much said the knife 
                      coming out a little.
But then knives          might become dull said the cut.
Aren't you bleeding          a little said the knife.
I hope not said the          cut.
I feel you are just          a little.
Maybe just a little          but I can stop now.
I feel a little          wetness still said the knife sinking in
a little but then          coming out a little.
Just a little maybe          just enough said the cut.
That's enough now          stop now do you feel better now 
                           said the knife.
I feel I have to          bleed to feel I think said the cut.
I don't I don't have          to feel said the knife drying now
                              becoming shiny.

"Language Lesson, 1976"
― Heather McHugh

When Americans say a man
takes liberties, they mean
he's gone too far. In Philadelphia

today a kid on a leash ordered
bicentennial burger,
hold the relish. Hold

is forget, in American.
On the courts of Philadelphia
the rich prepare

to serve, to fault.
The language is a game in which
love means nothing, doubletalk

means lie. I'm saying
doubletalk with me. I'm saying go
so far the customs are untold,

make nothing without words,
and let me be
the one you never hold.

"If All Be True That I Do Think"
— Henry Aldrich

If all be true that I do think,
There are five reasons we should drink.
Good wine, a friend, or being dry,
Or lest we should be by and by;
Or any other reason why!

"Untitled" Math Limericks
— Unknown

There once was a number named pi
Who frequently liked to get high
All he did every day
Was sit in his room and play
With his imaginary friend named i.
- - - - - - - -
There once was a number named e
Who took way too much LSD.
She thought she was great.
But that fact we must debate;
We know she wasn't greater than 3.
- - - - - - - -
There once was a log named Lynn
Whose life was devoted to sin.
She came from a tree
Whose base was shaped like an e.
She was the most natural log I've seen.
- - - - - - - -
I used to think math was no fun,
'Cause I couldn't see how it was done,
Now Euler's my hero,
For I now see why zero,
= e ^ (i pi) + 1.

"His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell"
— A. D. Hope

Since you have world enough and time
Sir, to admonish me in rhyme,
Pray Mr Marvell, can it be
You think to have persuaded me?
Then let me say: you want the art
To woo, much less to win my heart.
The verse was splendid, all admit,
And, sir, you have a pretty wit.
All that indeed your poem lacked
Was logic, modesty, and tact,
Slight faults and ones to which I own,
Your sex is generally prone;
But though you lose your labour, I
Shall not refuse you a reply:

First, for the language you employ:
A term I deprecate is "coy";
The ill-bred miss, the bird-brained Jill,
May simper and be coy at will;
A lady, sir, as you will find,
Keeps counsel, or she speaks her mind,
Means what she says and scorns to fence
And palter with feigned innocence.

The ambiguous "mistress" next you set
Beside this graceless epithet.
"Coy mistress", sir? Who gave you leave
To wear my heart upon your sleeve?
Or to imply, as sure you do,
I had no other choice than you
And must remain upon the shelf
Unless I should bestir myself?
Shall I be moved to love you, pray,
By hints that I must soon decay?
No woman's won by being told
How quickly she is growing old;
Nor will such ploys, when all is said,
Serve to stampede us into bed.

When from pure blackmail, next you move
To bribe or lure me into love,
No less inept, my rhyming friend,
Snared by the means, you miss your end.
"Times winged chariot", and the rest
As poetry may pass the test;
Readers will quote those lines, I trust,
Till you and I and they are dust;
But I, your destined prey, must look
Less at the bait than at the hook,
Nor, when I do, can fail to see
Just what it is you offer me:
Love on the run, a rough embrace
Snatched in the fury of the chase,
The grave before us and the wheels
Of Time's grim chariot at our heels,
While we, like "am'rous birds of prey",
Tear at each other by the way.

To say the least, the scene you paint
Is, what you call my honour, quaint!
And on this point what prompted you
So crudely, and in public too,
To canvass and , indeed, make free
With my entire anatomy?
Poets have licence, I confess,
To speak of ladies in undress;
Thighs, hearts, brows, breasts are well enough,
In verses this is common stuff;
But — well I ask: to draw attention
To worms in — what I blush to mention,
And prate of dust upon it too!
Sir, was this any way to woo?

Now therefore, while male self-regard
Sits on your cheek, my hopeful bard,
May I suggest, before we part,
The best way to a woman's heart
Is to be modest, candid, true;
Tell her you love and show you do;
Neither cajole nor condescend
And base the lover on the friend;
Don't bustle her or fuss or snatch:
A suitor looking at his watch
Is not a posture that persuades
Willing, much less reluctant maids.

Remember that she will be stirred
More by the spirit than the word;
For truth and tenderness do more
Than coruscating metaphor.
Had you addressed me in such terms
And prattled less of graves and worms,
I might, who knows, have warmed to you;
But, as things stand, must bid adieu
(Though I am grateful for the rhyme)
And wish you better luck next time.

"Starlight Scope Myopia"
― Yusef Komunyakaa

Gray-blue shadows lift
shadows onto an ox cart.
Making night work for us,
the starlight scope brings
men into killing range.

The river under Vi Bridge
takes the heart away

like the Water God
riding his dragon.

Viet Cong
move under our eyelids,

lords over loneliness
winding like coral vine through
sandalwood & lotus,

inside our lowered heads
years after this scene

ends. The brain closes
down. What looks like
one step into the trees,

they're lifting crates of ammo
& sacks of rice, swaying

under their shared weight.
Caught in the infrared,
what are they saying?

Are they talking about women
or calling the Americans

beaucoup then cai dau?
One of them is laughing.
You want to place a finger

to his lips & say "shhhh."
You try reading ghost talk

on their lips. They say
"up-up we go," lifting as one.
This one, old, bowlegged,

you feel you could reach out
& take him into your arms. You

peer down the sights of your M-16,
seeing the full moon
loaded on an ox cart.

"My Father's Martial Art"
— Stephen Shu-ning Liu

When he came home Mother said he looked
like a monk and stank of green fungus.
At the fireside he told us about life
at the monastery; his rock pillows,
his cold bath, his steel-bar lifting
and his wood-chopping. He didn't see
a woman for three winters, on Mountain O Mei.

"My Master was both light and heavy.
He skipped over treetops like a squirrel.
Once he stood on a chair, one foot tied
to a rope. We four pulled; we couldn't
move him a bit. His kicks could split
a cedar's trunk."

I saw Father break into a pumpkin
with his fingers. I saw him drop a hawk
with bamboo arrows. He rose before dawn, filled
our backyard with a harsh sound hah, hah, hah:
there was his Black Dragon Sweep, his Crane Stand,
his Mantis Walk, his Tiger Leap, his Cobra Coil...
Infrequently he taught me tricks and made me
fight the best of all the village boys.

From a busy street I brood over high cliffs
on O Mei, where my father and his Master sit:
shadows spread across their faces as the smog
between us deepens into a funeral pyre.

But don't retreat into night, my father.
Come down from the cliffs. Come
with a single Black Dragon Sweep and hush
this oncoming traffic with your hah, hah, hah.

- Langston Hughes

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

"To A Dark Moses"
- Lucille Clifton

you are the one
i am lit for.
Come with your rod
that twists
and is a serpent.
i am the bush.
i am burning
i am not consumed.

"Hell Is Graduated"
- Elizabeth Bishop

When I was employed at Cooperative Fashions, in spite of the dark, ugly old maid, I tried to steal some garters. I was pursued down the superb staircases, not for the theft, but for my laziness at work and for my hatred of the innocent finery. Descend, you are pursued. The staircases are less beautiful in the offices than in the part open to the public. The staircases are less beautiful in the “service” quarters than in the offices. The staircases are still less beautiful in the cellar! But what can I say of the marsh where I arrived? What can I say of the laughter? Of the animals that brushed by me, and the whisperings of unseen creatures? Water gave place to fire, to fear, to unconsciousness; when I came to myself I was in the hands of silent and nameless surgeons.

- Adrienne Rich

Living     in the earth-deposits     of our history

Today a backhoe divulged     out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle     amber     perfect     a hundred-year-old
cure for fever     or melancholy     a tonic
for living on this earth     in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered     from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years     by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin     of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold     a test-tube or a pencil

She died     a famous woman     denying
her wounds
her wounds     came     from the same source as her power

Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: The Strokes - You Only Live Once


[User Picture]
Date:February 4th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
Good stuff! That Billy Collins poem is one of my all-time favorites. I think it says so much about the erroneous ways poetry is taught and written these days.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:February 4th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
I concur! :-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Date:February 4th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)

Lindsay and Hughes

I'm always trolling for references to Vachel Lindsay in the blogosphere to post here (http://vachel.blogspot.com/).

Thanks for including Lindsay here along with Langston Hughes. Did you know that Lindsay discovered Hughes and introduced his poetry to the world? The story goes that while Lindsay was at dinner in a Washington, D.C. hotel, Langston Hughes, who was working as a busboy there, recognized the famous poet and left some examples of his poetry at the table for Lindsay. Lindsay was impressed and read the poems to an audience that very night. Newspapers and magazines picked up the story of Lindsay's reading of a "busboy poet" and thus began Hughes' unprecedented fame.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:February 4th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Lindsay and Hughes

I vaguely remember learning that Hughes was discovered by another prominent poet, bue I wouldn't have remembered who it was. Very cool story though. :-)

I've read healthy doses of Hughes and just love him to pieces, but I've read relatively little of Lindsay. So, I'll definitely check out the blog you mentioned.
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