Forum / POEMS for the Time of Contagion

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    David Ackley
    Apr 07, 11:51pm

    Hard times call for tough poems, things that last, not nostrums and panaceas. Here are some. Feel free to add your own choices:

    "Gift," by Czeslaw Milosz

    A day so happy.
    Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
    Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
    There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
    I knew no one worth my envying him.
    Whatever evil I had suffered I, I forgot.
    To think that I was once the same man did not embarrass me.
    In my body I felt no pain.
    When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

    The World Is Too Much With Us
    BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
    This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
    The winds that will be howling at all hours,
    And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
    For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
    It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

    The Mower
    BY PHILIP LARKIN
    The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
    A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
    Killed. It had been in the long grass.

    I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
    Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
    Unmendably. Burial was no help:

    Next morning I got up and it did not.
    The first day after a death, the new absence
    Is always the same; we should be careful

    Of each other, we should be kind
    While there is still time.

    'It is night outside' by Osip Mandelstaum
    (tr.by Richard and Elizabeth Kane.

    It is night outside. The deceit of the rich is all around.
    It's 'apres moi le deluge'.
    And then what? The citizens will be hoarse,
    and there'll be a crowd in the cloakroom.

    Masked ball, wolfhound age.
    Learn by heart the lesson:
    stuff your hat up your sleeve,
    and may God preserve you!

    Now that I am Never Alone
    BY TESS GALLAGHER
    In the bath I look up and see the brown moth
    pressed like a pair of unpredictable lips
    against the white wall. I heat up
    the water, running as much hot in as I can stand.
    These handfuls over my shoulder—how once
    he pulled my head against his thigh and dipped
    a rivulet down my neck of coldest water from the spring
    we were drinking from. Beautiful mischief
    that stills a moment so I can never look
    back. Only now, brightest now, and the water
    never hot enough to drive that shiver out.

    But I remember solitude—no other
    presence and each thing what it was. Not this raw
    fluttering I make of you as you have made of me
    your watch-fire, your killing light.

    Sailing to Byzantium
    BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
    I

    That is no country for old men. The young
    In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
    —Those dying generations—at their song,
    The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
    Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
    Caught in that sensual music all neglect
    Monuments of unageing intellect.

    II

    An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress,
    Nor is there singing school but studying
    Monuments of its own magnificence;
    And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.

    III

    O sages standing in God's holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
    And be the singing-masters of my soul.
    Consume my heart away; sick with desire
    And fastened to a dying animal
    It knows not what it is; and gather me
    Into the artifice of eternity.

    IV

    Once out of nature I shall never take
    My bodily form from any natural thing,
    But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
    To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
    Or set upon a golden bough to sing
    To lords and ladies of Byzantium
    Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

    And some titles:

    "Gravy," by Raymond Carver

    "Ambulances," by Philip Larkin

    "In the garden," by Emily Dickinson

    "First Elegy," (from "Duino Elegies," by Rainer
    Maria Rilke

    Please add any you like to this thread.

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    Mathew Paust
    Apr 08, 11:01pm

    Let's not give in

    to a generalized sorrow

    a fearful grief

    let's not let it win

    let's not be so very surprised when we see those things meant to remind us there is good in the world

    people losing their minds, crying over those things, joyous tears of relief. i do it too.

    yet, it's no surprise. we know there is good in the world.

    i am good. you are good.

    i have been kind, and i have had kindness visited upon me.

    let's not let the bloody-mouthed media lead us to believe otherwise

    let's not ignore mean-hearted ignorance, no matter from who

    i will now correct any mean hearted ignorant spouter, no matter if they are old, no matter if they are decrepit, no matter if they had a hard life. there is no more time for mean heartedness.

    and that's one way we will show the world kindness, by not letting those injured by mean-hearted ignorance feel alone and unprotected

    let's get out of the house, even just to our stoop

    it doesn't always help, but it certainly never hurts

    let's learn something new, or do something old.

    find your old crochet basket, and make a scarf

    that old stamp kit, and some paper

    find a site online that teaches you how to craft paper airplanes, or origami squares

    take that 99 cent set of watercolors, and paint a picture of your couch. a pencil, and draw your shoe.

    whatever you like, just SOMEthing.

    write a letter, by hand, and mail it to someone who will smile to find it in their mailbox, to be remembered.

    read a different kind of book, give it a real try.

    watch The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill or Big Fish or Casablanca or Airplane

    just, let's not give in

    let's not go dark, though God knows we are entitled to

    let's remember we are here to make light

    the answer to what is the meaning of life, why we are here

    is to light the way for others, and ourselves

    to be the light

    as patti smith said when I saw her after her husband had died, the grief of which nearly ruined her. she walked off stage with her fist in the air and said,

    "we're alive!! we're f*ckin' ALIVE!"

    let's revel in that, shall we?

    --Holly Christiana from "What the Stars See"

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    David Ackley
    Apr 09, 01:07pm

    Nice one. Thanks, Mathew.

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    David Ackley
    Apr 09, 02:01pm

    "It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there."

    From "Asphodel," by William Carlos Williams

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    Mathew Paust
    Apr 10, 12:46am

    Great quote.

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    Sam Rasnake
    Apr 10, 03:59am

    "homage to my hips" by Lucille Clifton

    won't you celebrate with me
    what i have shaped into
    a kind of life? i had no model.
    born in babylon
    both nonwhite and woman
    what did i see to be except myself?
    i made it up
    here on this bridge between
    starshine and clay,
    my one hand holding tight
    my other hand; come celebrate
    with me that everyday
    something has tried to kill me
    and has failed.

    ~

    "Ask Me" by William Stafford

    Some time when the river is ice ask me
    mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
    what I have done is my life. Others
    have come in their slow way into
    my thought, and some have tried to help
    or to hurt: ask me what difference
    their strongest love or hate has made.

    I will listen to what you say.
    You and I can turn and look
    at the silent river and wait. We know
    the current is there, hidden; and there
    are comings and goings from miles away
    that hold the stillness exactly before us.
    What the river says, that is what I say.

    ~

    "Fear Poem (I Give You Back)" by Joy Harjo

    I release you, my beautiful and terrible
    fear. I release you. You were my beloved
    and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
    as myself. I release you with all the
    pain I would know at the death of
    my children.
    You are not my blood anymore.
    I give you back to the soldiers
    who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
    raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
    I give you back to those who stole the
    food from our plates when we were starving.
    I release you, fear, because you hold
    these scenes in front of me and I was born
    with eyes that can never close.
    I release you
    I release you
    I release you
    I release you
    I am not afraid to be angry.
    I am not afraid to rejoice.
    I am not afraid to be black.
    I am not afraid to be white.
    I am not afraid to be hungry.
    I am not afraid to be full.
    I am not afraid to be hated.
    I am not afraid to be loved.
    to be loved, to be loved, fear.
    Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
    You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
    You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.
    I take myself back, fear.
    You are not my shadow any longer.
    I won’t hold you in my hands.
    You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
    my belly, or in my heart my heart
    my heart my heart
    But come here, fear
    I am alive and you are so afraid
    of dying.

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    David Ackley
    May 25, 12:22pm

    Here's another one, a month or so late, kind of comic and tragic both, which seems right for the times:

    April Inventory
    By W. D. Snodgrass

    The green catalpa tree has turned
    All white; the cherry blooms once more.
    In one whole year I haven’t learned
    A blessed thing they pay you for.
    The blossoms snow down in my hair;
    The trees and I will soon be bare.

    The trees have more than I to spare.
    The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
    Younger and pinker every year,
    Bloom gradually out of reach.
    The pear tree lets its petals drop
    Like dandruff on a tabletop.

    The girls have grown so young by now
    I have to nudge myself to stare.
    This year they smile and mind me how
    My teeth are falling with my hair.
    In thirty years I may not get
    Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

    The tenth time, just a year ago,
    I made myself a little list
    Of all the things I’d ought to know,
    Then told my parents, analyst,
    And everyone who’s trusted me
    I’d be substantial, presently.

    I haven’t read one book about
    A book or memorized one plot.
    Or found a mind I did not doubt.
    I learned one date. And then forgot.
    And one by one the solid scholars
    Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

    And smile above their starchy collars.
    I taught my classes Whitehead’s notions;
    One lovely girl, a song of Mahler’s.
    Lacking a source-book or promotions,
    I showed one child the colors of
    A luna moth and how to love.

    I taught myself to name my name,
    To bark back, loosen love and crying;
    To ease my woman so she came,
    To ease an old man who was dying.
    I have not learned how often I
    Can win, can love, but choose to die.

    I have not learned there is a lie
    Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
    That my equivocating eye
    Loves only by my body’s hunger;
    That I have forces, true to feel,
    Or that the lovely world is real.

    While scholars speak authority
    And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
    My eyes in spectacles shall see
    These trees procure and spend their leaves.
    There is a value underneath
    The gold and silver in my teeth.

    Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
    We shall afford our costly seasons;
    There is a gentleness survives
    That will outspeak and has its reasons.
    There is a loveliness exists,
    Preserves us, not for specialists.

    W.D. Snodgrass, “April Inventory” from Selected Poems, 1957-1987 (New York: Soho Press, 1987). Copyright © 1987 by W.D. Snodgrass. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
    Source: Selected Poems 1957-1987 (1987)

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    Mathew Paust
    May 28, 01:06am

    Hibernation

    I'm sharing a den with Lily and Hope
    but I'm the only one still hibernating.

    Lily and her cub are out of the den right now,
    getting some fresh air.

    Emerald sunlight bathes them from
    the leafy cover, drawing highlights of grey
    from the shag of their midnight winter coats,
    and dripping golden pools across the forest floor.

    On all fours, alert—Lily holds her nose astutely
    north, her mini-me beside her faces rear. I feel far
    from harm seeing their calm vigilance, safe
    in our den from all intrusion, real and imagined.

    The real’s been several months now, while my bears
    have been with me several years, gracing the Navajo
    blanket I hang from nails over my windowed door to
    fend off solar glare and bolster my illusion of privacy--

    An illusion so vital it rarely granted hopes of social
    surprise, yet misses that luxury at the moment.

    m.d. paust

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    Mathew Paust
    May 28, 12:15pm

    I wish this forum had an editing feature, but as I can neither make an important tweak or replace the whole poem, for what it's worth, I must re-post it.

    Hibernation 27 May 2020

    I'm sharing a den with Lily and Hope
    but I'm the only one still hibernating.

    Lily and her cub are outside the den right now,
    getting some fresh air.

    Emerald sunlight bathes them from
    the leafy cover, drawing highlights of grey
    from the shag of their midnight winter coats,
    and dripping golden pools across the forest floor.

    On all fours, alert—Lily holds her nose astutely
    north, her mini-me beside her faces rear. I feel far
    from harm seeing their calm vigilance, safe
    in our den from all intrusion, real and imagined.

    The real’s been several months now, while my bears
    have been with me several years, gracing the Navajo
    blanket I hang from nails over my windowed door to
    fend off solar glare and bolster my illusion of privacy--

    An illusion so vital it rarely granted hopes of social
    surprise, yet misses that luxury at the moment.
    m.d. paust

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