If I could only get hold of the whole of you,
How could I ever get hold of the whole of you,
Even more than the most beloved idols,
More than mountains quarried whole,
More than mines
Of burning coal,
Let’s say mines of extinguished coal
And the breath of day like a fiery furnace.
If one could get hold of you for all the years,
How could one get hold of you from all the years,
How could one lengthen a single arm,
Like a single branch of an African river,
As one sees in a dream the Bay of Storms,
As one sees in a dream a ship that went down,
The way one imagines a cushion of clouds,
Lily-clouds as the body’s cushion,
But though you will it, they will not convey you,
Do not believe that they will convey you.
If one could get hold of all-of-the-whole-of-you,
If one could get hold of you like metal,
Say like pillars of copper,
Say like a pillar of purple copper
(That pillar I remembered last summer)—
And the bottom of the ocean I have never seen,
And the bottom of the ocean that I can see
With its thousand heavy thickets of air,
A thousand and one laden breaths.
If one could only get hold of the-whole-of-you-now,
How could you ever be for me what I myself am?
"The Second Trying," translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfield, from Poetry
(April 2009) (via apoetreflects
“Every Sunday, [Dorianne] Laux puts a new poem in the box. Some are personal favorites, like Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Assault, about the beauty of nature. Some reflect what’s going on in the community, like the one about the storm-tossed tree she gave out after a neighbor’s tree fell in a storm. Some highlight holidays or visiting writers, or the weather.
"Why do people want her poems? ‘It makes people slow down for a minute,’ Laux says. ‘To remember that they’re living in a totally miraculous world, filled with mystery and beauty and intensity. And we forget that, because we’re busy. Poetry says, no, stop. You’re in a world that is a huge mystery, and every moment is precious, and time is passing.’"
And then a feather grazed my ear,
the ruffle of wings, and a vision rose in my head:
I was free. My future lay clear and open and bright
as the treeless field across the road. That burden
of inheritance now lifted, vanished. No shop.
Anything: musician, writer, anything I wanted.
I walked out into an endless sky. I rose. I flew.
B. H. Fairchild
, from “The Blue Buick: A Narrative,” in Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest: Poems
(W. W. Norton & Co., 2003) (via apoetreflects
We brought that newborn home from Maimonides
and showed her nine blue glittering streets.
Would she like the semis with hoods of snow?
The precinct? Bohack’s? A lit diner?
Her eyes were huge and her gaze tilted
like milk in a pan, toward shadow.
Would she like the tenement, three dim flights,
her crib that smelled of Lemon Pledge?
We slept beside her in our long coats,
rigid with fatigue in the unmade bed.
Her breath woke us with its slight catch.
Would she approve of gray winter dawn?
We showed her daylight in our cupped hands.
Then the high clocks began booming
in this city and the next, we counted for her,
but just the strokes, not the laggards
or the tinny echoes, and we taught her
how to wait, how to watch, how to be held,
in that icy room, until our own alarm chimed.
Despair is still servant
to the violet and wild ongoings
of bone. You, remember, are
that which must be made
servant only to salt, only
to the watery acre that is the body
of the beloved, only to the child
leaning forward into
the exhibit of birches
the forest has made of bronze light
and snow. Even as the day kneels
forward, the oceans and strung garnets, too,
kneel, they are all kneeling,
the city, the goat, the lime tree
and mother, the fearful doctor,
kneeling. Don’t say it’s the beautiful
I praise. I praise the human,
gutted and rising.
I am the sluice of dead scrolls and songs,
I am the tongue of what exists,
Whose secrets are whispered and not heard.
Listen to me, listen to what’s the nothing I have to say.
—Charles Wright, from “23” in Littlefoot: A Poem (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007)
Each time I’m asked to tell about myself, I find myself starting the same way: “My name is Kelsey and I’m nineteen..”
but what I’d really like to say is:
“My name means island of the ships but once
I found a translation that said I’m a burning shipwreck-
not a burning ship but a ship that has caught fire
after the wreckage and well, I’d say that’s more fitting.”
I’ve learned that people don’t have time for about me’s.
They need two things: a name and an indication you’re someone special.
The doctors, they want facts not details.
“I broke my leg when I was three, it’s a funny story actually-“
The right or the left?
The teachers, they want interests, hobbies.
You’re sad, yes, but what do you like to do?
The adults are a spew of questions.
What school do you go to? What classes are you taking?
What do you plan on becoming? Got a boyfriend?
People my own age are the worst.
“I’m planning on an English degree with a concentration in creative writing.”
Yeah, aren’t we all. So how many times have you, you know,
I’m pulled apart, my interests travelling highway 2
my goals at a stop light at traffic hour,
my medical history on a billboard for the world to see.
But what about me?
Where’s the chance to say,
“I hang on to fistfuls of poetry like loose change in my pockets,
and I keep waiting for the day that the world turns upside down
so I can swim with the stars.
I’m not afraid of darkness, it’s a loneliness I can empathize with it.
It’s the blackholes like cigarette burns inside of me that get troublesome.
I walk through graveyards and read the dashes between years,
each a story I’ll never know but sometimes
I create my own.”
No wonder none of us know who we are anymore.
I built a timely room beside the river,
The slope beneath descending to the water.
Some mornings it is vibrant with the glance
Of sunlight brightened on the little waves
The wind drives shoreward, stirring leaves and branches
Over the roof also. It is a room
Of pictures and of memories of some
Who are no more in time, and of the absent
And of the present the unresting thoughts.
It is a room as timely as the body,
As frail, to shelter love’s eternal work,
Always unfinished, here at water’s edge,
The work of beauty, faith, and gratitude
Eternally alive in time. Around
The walls the trees like waves, like men,
Come up, come up, expend themselves, and die.
The water shines back the unending sky.
—Wendell Berry, from section V of “Sabbaths 2004” in Given: Poems (CounterPoint, 2006)
“There are those fortunate hours when the world consents to be made into a poem.”
In the daylight we know
what’s gone is gone,
but at night it’s different.
Nothing gets finished,
not dying, not mourning;
the dead repeat themselves, like clumsy drunks
lurching sideways through the doors
we open them in sleep;
these slurred guests, never entirely welcome,
even those we have loved the most,
especially those we have loved the most,
returning from where we shoved them
away too quickly:
from the ground, from the water,
they clutch at us, they clutch at us,
we won’t let go.
from “Two Dreams, 2” in Eating Fire: Selected Poetry, 1965-1995
(Virago, 1998) (via apoetreflects
I take the word and move
through it, as if it were
only a human form,
its lines delight me and I sail
in each resonance of language:
I utter and I am
and across the boundary of words,
without speaking, I approach silence.
—Pablo Neruda, from “The Word,” in Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems, translated from the Spanish by Stephen Mitchell (HarperFlamingo, 1998)