28 April 2019: "The Meadow" by Kate Knapp Johnson

The Meadow

Half the day lost, staring
at this window. I wanted to know
just one true thing

about the soul, but I left thinking
for thought, and now -
two inches of snow have fallen

over the meadow. Where did I go,
how long was I out looking
for you?, who would never leave me,
my withness, my here.


by Kate Knapp Johnson, Poetry 180 | 118

27 April: "What Would I Do" by Marc Petersen

What I Would Do

If my wife were to have an affair,
I would walk to my toolbox in the garage,
Take from it my 12" flathead screwdriver
And my hickory-handle hammer,
The one that helped me build three redwood fences,
And I would hammer out the pins
In all the door hinges in the house,
And I would pull off all the doors
And I would stack them in the backyard.
And I would empty all the sheets from the linen closet,
And especially the flannels we have slept between for
    nineteen winters;
And I would empty all the towels, too,
The big heavy white towels she bought on Saturdays at
    Target,
And the red bath towels we got for our wedding,
And which we have never used;
And I would unroll the aluminum foil from its box,
And carry all the pots and pans from the cupboards to the
    backyard,
And lay this one long sheet of aluminum foil over all our
    pots and pans;
And I would dump all the silverware from the drawer
Onto the driveway; and I would push my motorcycle over
And let all its gas leak out,
And I would leave my Jeep running at the curb
Until its tank was empty or its motor blew up,
And I would turn the TV up full-blast and open all the
    windows;
And I would turn the stereo up full-blast,
With Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on it,
Schiller's "Ode to Joy," really blasting;
And I would strip our bed;
And I would lie on our stripped bed;
And I would see our maple budding out the window.
I would see our maple budding out our window,
The hummingbird feeder hanging from its lowest bough.
And my cat would jump up to see what was the matter
    with me.
And I would tell her.  Of course, I would tell her.
From her, I hold nothing back.


by Marc Petersen, Poetry 180 | 117

26 April 2019: "Telephone Repairman" by Joseph Millar

                                 Telephone Repairman
           
 
All morning in the February light
he has been mending cable,
splicing the pairs of wires together
according to their colors,
white-blue to white-blue
violet-slate to violet-slate,
in the warehouse attic by the river.

When he is finished
the messages will flow along the line:
thank you for the gift,
please come to the baptism,
the bill is now past due
:
voices that flicker and gleam back and forth
across the tracer-colored wires.

We live so much of our lives
without telling anyone,
going out before dawn,
working all day by ourselves,
shaking our heads in silence
at the news on the radio.
He thinks of the many signals
flying in the air around him
the syllables fluttering,
saying please love me,
from continent to continent
over the curve of the earth.
 
 
by Joseph Millar, Poetry 180 | 116

25 April 2019: "Skin" by Lucia Perillo

Skin

Back then it seemed that wherever a girl took off her
     clothes the police would find her-
in the backs of cars or beside the dark night ponds,
     opening like a green leaf across
some boy's knees, the skin so white and taut beneath the
     moor, it was almost too terrible,
too beautiful to look at, a tinderbox, though she did not
     know. But the men who came
beating the night rushes with their flashlights and
     thighs- they knew. About Helen,
about how a body could cause the fall of Troy and the
     death of a perfectly good king.
So they read the boy his rights and shoved him spread-
     legged against the car
while the girl hopped barefoot on the asphalt, cloaked in
     a wood rescue blanket.
Or sometimes girls fled so their fathers wouldn't hit
     them, their white legs flashing as they ran.
And the boys were handcuffed just until their wrists had
     welts and let off half a block from home.

God for how many years did I believe there were truly
     laws against such things,
laws of adulthood: no yelling out of cars in traffic tunnels,
     no walking without shoes,
no singing foolish songs in public places. Or else they
     could lock you in jail
or, as good as condemning you to death, tell both your
     lower- and upper- case Catholic fathers.
And out of all these crimes, unveiling the body was of
     course the worst, as though something
about the skin's phosphorescence, its surface as velvet as
     a deer's new  horn,
could drive not only men but civilization mad, could lead
     us to unspeakable cruelties.
There were elders who from experience understood these
     things much better than we.
And it's true: remembering I had that kind of skin does
     drive me half-crazy with loss.
Skin like the spathe of a broad white lily on the first
     morning it unfurls.


by Lucia Perillo, Poetry 180 | 115

24 April 2019: "Small Comfort" by Katha Pollitt

Small Comfort

Coffee and cigarettes in a clean cafe,
forsythia lit like a damp match against
a thundery sky drunk on its own ozone,

the laundry cool and crisp and folded away
again in the lavender closet-too late to find
comfort enough in such small daily moments

of beauty, renewal, calm, too late to imagine
people would rather be happy than suffering
and inflicting suffering. We're near the end,

but O before the end, as the sparrows wing
each night to their secret nests in the elm's green dome
O let the last bus bring

love to lover, let the starveling
dog turn the corner and lope suddenly
miraculously, down its own street, home.


by Katha Pollitt, Poetry 180 | 114

23 April 2019: "For Mhammed Zeid, Age 15" by Naomi Shihab Nye

For Mohammed Zeid of Gaza, Age 15
 

 There is no stray bullet, sirs.
No bullet like a worried cat
crouching under a bush,
no half-hairless puppy bullet
dodging midnight streets.
The bullet could not be a pecan
plunking the tin roof,
not hardly, no fluff of pollen
on October’s breath,
no humble pebble at our feet.
So don’t gentle it, please.
We live among stray thoughts,
tasks abandoned midstream.
Our fickle hearts are fat
with stray devotions, we feel at home
among bits and pieces,
all the wandering ways of words.
But this bullet had no innocence, did not
wish anyone well, you can’t tell us otherwise
by naming it mildly, this bullet was never the friend
of life, should not be granted immunity
by soft saying—friendly fire, straying death-eye,
why have we given the wrong weight to what we do?
Mohammed, Mohammed, deserves the truth.
This bullet had no secret happy hopes,
it was not singing to itself with eyes closed
under the bridge.


by Naomi Shihab Nye, Poetry 180 | 113

22 April 2019: "Tuesday Morning Loading Pigs" by David Lee

Tuesday Morning, Loading Pigs

The worse goddam job of all
sez John pushing a thick slat
in front of the posts
behind the sow in the loading chute
so when she balked and backed up
she couldn't turn and get away
I never seen a sow or a hog load easy
some boars will
mebbe it's because they got balls
or something I don't know
but I seen them do it
that Brown feller the FFA
he's got this board he just opens the trailer door
he comes and gets in
course he mebbe knows what
he's being loaded up for

it was this Ivie boy back home
the best I ever seen for loading
he wasn't scared of nothing
he'd get right in and shove them up
he put sixteen top hogs
in the back of a Studebaker pickup
by hisself I seen it

when he was a boy he opened up
the tank on the tractor
smelling gas
made his brains go soft they sed
he failed fifth grade
but it wasn't his fault
he could load up hogs

I always had to at home
cause I was the youngest
I sed then it was two things
I wouldn't do when I grown up
warsh no dishes or load up hogs
by god they can set in the sink
a month before I'll warsh them
a man's got to have a principle
he can live by is what I say
now you grab her ears and pull
I'll push from back here
we'll get that sonabitch in the truck.

by David Lee, Poetry 180-112

21 April 2019: "Tulips" by Sylvia Plath

Tulips
                                            
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.   
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.   
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.   
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses   
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
 
 
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff   
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,   
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.   
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,   
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;   
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat   
stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.   
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley   
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books   
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.   
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them   
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.   

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe   
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.   
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down,   
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,   
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.   
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,   
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow   
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,   
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.   
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.   
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river   
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.   
They concentrate my attention, that was happy   
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;   
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,   
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.

20 April 2019: "The Doom" by Game of Thrones

The Doom- Game of Thrones

"They held each other close and turned their backs upon the end.
The hills that split asunder and the black that ate the skies;
The flames that shot so high and hot that even dragons burned;
Would never be the final sights that fell upon their eyes.
A fly upon a wall, the waves the sea wind whipped and churned —
The city of a thousand years, and all that men had learned;
The Doom consumed it all alike, and neither of them turned
"
 
Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont, quoting a poem about the Doom
 

http://www.makinggameofthrones.com/production-diary/poem-doom-of-valyria

19 April 2019: "No. 6" by Charles Bukowski

No. 6

I'll settle for the 6 horse
on a rainy afternoon
a paper cup of coffee
in my hand
a little way to go,
the wind twirling out
small wrens from
the upper grandstand roof,
the jocks coming out
for a middle race
silent
and the easy rain making
everything
at once
almost alike,
the horses at peace with
each other
before the drunken war
and I am under the grandstand
feeling for
cigarettes
settling for coffee,
then the horses walk by
taking their little men
away-
it is funereal and graceful
and glad
like the opening
of flowers.