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Poem of the Day: Autumn Sky
In my great grandmother's time,
All one needed was a broom
To get to see places
And give the geese a chase in the sky.

               •

The stars know everything,
So we try to read their minds.
As distant as they are,
We choose to whisper in their presence.

               •

Oh Cynthia,
Take a clock that has lost its hands
For a ride.
Get me a room at Hotel Eternity
Where Time likes to stop now and then.

               •

Come, lovers of dark corners,
The sky says,
And sit in one of my dark corners.
There are tasty little zeroes
In the peanut dish tonight.

Source: Poetry October 2002

Charles Simic

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Poem of the Day: Narrative: Ali
1.

My head so big
they had to pry
me out. I’m sorry
Bird (is what I call
my mother). Cassius
Marcellus Clay,
Muhammad Ali;
you can say
my name in any
language, any
continent: Ali.


2.

Two photographs
of Emmett Till,
born my year,
on my birthday.
One, he’s smiling,
happy, and the other one
is after. His mother
did the bold thing,
kept the casket open,
made the thousands look upon
his bulging eyes,
his twisted neck,
her lynched black boy.
I couldn’t sleep
for thinking,
Emmett Till.

One day I went
Down to the train tracks,
found some iron
shoe-shine rests
and planted them
between the ties
and waited
for a train to come,
and watched the train
derail, and ran,
and after that
I slept at night.


3.

I need to train
around people,
hear them talk,
talk back. I need
to hear the traffic,
see people in
the barbershop,
people getting
shoe shines, talking,
hear them talk,
talk back.


4.

Bottom line: Olympic gold
can’t buy a black man
a Louisville hamburger
in nineteen-sixty.

Wasn’t even real gold.
I watched the river
drag the ribbon down,
red, white, and blue.   


5.

Laying on the bed,
praying for a wife,
in walk Sonji Roi.

Pretty little shape.
Do you like
chop suey?

Can I wash your hair
underneath
that wig?

Lay on the bed,
Girl. Lie
with me.

Shake to the east,
to the north,
south, west—

but remember,
remember, I need
a Muslim wife. So

Quit using lipstick.
Quit your boogaloo.
Cover up your knees

like a Muslim
wife, religion,
religion, a Muslim

wife. Eleven
months with Sonji,
first woman I loved.


6.

There’s not
too many days
that pass that I
don’t think
of how it started,
but I know
no Great White Hope
can beat
a true black champ.
Jerry Quarry
could have been
a movie star,
a millionaire,
a senator,
a president—
he only had
to do one thing,
is whip me,
but he can’t.


7. Dressing-Room Visitor

He opened
up his shirt:
“KKK” cut
in his chest.
He dropped
his trousers:
latticed scars
where testicles
should be, His face
bewildered, frozen
in the Alabama woods
that night in 1966
when they left him
for dead, his testicles
in a Dixie cup.
You a warning,
they told him,
to smart-mouth,
sassy-acting niggers,
meaning niggers
still alive,
meaning any nigger,
meaning niggers
like me.


8. Training

Unsweetened grapefruit juice
will melt my stomach down.
Don’t drive if you can walk,
don’t walk if you can run.
I add a mile each day
and run in eight-pound boots.

My knuckles sometimes burst
the glove. I let dead skin
build up, and then I peel it,
let it scar, so I don’t bleed
as much. My bones
absorb the shock.

I train in three-minute
spurts, like rounds: three
rounds big bag, three speed
bag, three jump rope, one-
minute breaks,
no more, no less.

Am I too old? Eat only
kosher meat. Eat cabbage,
carrots, beets, and watch
the weight come down:
two-thirty, two-twenty,
two-ten, two-oh-nine.


9.

Will I go
like Kid Paret,
a fractured
skull, a ten-day
sleep, dreaming
alligators, pork
chops, saxophones,
slow grinds, funk,
fishbowls, lightbulbs,
bats, typewriters,
tuning forks, funk
clocks, red rubber
ball, what you see
in that lifetime
knockout minute
on the cusp?
You could be
let go,
you could be
snatched back.


10. Rumble in the Jungle

Ali boma ye,
Ali boma ye,
means kill him, Ali,
which is different
from a whupping
which is what I give,
but I lead them chanting
anyway, Ali
boma ye, because
here in Africa
black people fly
planes and run countries.

I’m still making up
for the foolishness
I said when I was
Clay from Louisville,
where I learned Africans
live naked in straw
huts eating tiger meat,
grunting and grinning,
swinging from vines,
pounding their chests—

I pound my chest but of my own accord.


11.

I said to Joe Frazier,
first thing, get a good house
in case you get crippled
so you and your family
can sleep somewhere. Always
keep one good Cadillac.
And watch how you dress
with that cowboy hat,
pink suits, white shoes—
that’s how pimps dress,
or kids, and you a champ,
or wish you were, ‘cause
I can whip you in the ring
or whip you in the street.
Now back to clothes,
wear dark clothes, suits,
black suits, like you the best
at what you do, like you
President of the World.
Dress like that.
Put them yellow pants away.
We dinosaurs gotta
look good, gotta sound
good, gotta be good,
the greatest, that’s what
I told Joe Frazier,
and he said to me,
we both bad niggers.
We don’t do no crawlin’.


12.

They called me “the fistic pariah.”

They said I didn’t love my country,
called me a race-hater, called me out
of my name, waited for me
to come out on a stretcher, shot at me,
hexed me, cursed me, wished me
all manner of ill will,
told me I was finished.

Here I am,
like the song says,
come and take me,

“The People’s Champ,”

myself,
Muhammad.
“Narrative: Ali” Copyright © 2001 by Elizabeth Alexander. Reprinted from Antebellum Dream Book, with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Antebellum Dream Book(Graywolf Press, 2001)

Elizabeth Alexander

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Poem of the Day: Voyage
I was the fourth ship.
          Behind Niña, Pinta, Santa María,
          Lost at sea while watching a seagull,
          Following the wind and sunset skies,
          While the others set their charts.

I was the fourth ship.
          Breathing in salt and flying with clouds,
          Sailing moonbreezes and starvision nights,
          Rolling into the wave and savoring its lull,
          While the others pointed their prows.

I was the fourth ship.
          Playfully in love with the sea,
          Eternally entwined with the sky,
          Forever vowed to my voyage,
          While the others shouted "Land."

Carmen Tafolla, "Voyage" from Curandera. Copyright © 2012 by Carmen Tafolla.  Reprinted by permission of Wings Press.

Source: Curandera(Wings Press, 2012)

Carmen Tafolla

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Poem of the Day: [i carry your heart with me(i...
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Source: Poetry June 1952

E. E. Cummings

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Poem of the Day: A Letter in October
Dawn comes later and later now,
and I, who only a month ago
could sit with coffee every morning
watching the light walk down the hill
to the edge of the pond and place
a doe there, shyly drinking,

then see the light step out upon
the water, sowing reflections
to either side—a garden
of trees that grew as if by magic—
now see no more than my face,
mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,

startled by time. While I slept,
night in its thick winter jacket
bridled the doe with a twist
of wet leaves and led her away,
then brought its black horse with harness
that creaked like a cricket, and turned

the water garden under. I woke,
and at the waiting window found
the curtains open to my open face;
beyond me, darkness. And I,
who only wished to keep looking out,
must now keep looking in.

Ted Kooser, “A Letter in October” from Weather Central. Copyright © 1994 by Ted Kooser. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, www.upress.pitt.edu. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Weather Central(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994)

Ted Kooser

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Poem of the Day: Contemplations at the Virgin...
Que será, el café of this holy, incorporated place,
the wild steam of scorched espresso cakes rising
like mirages from the aromatic waste, waving
over the coffee-glossed lips of these faces

assembled for a standing breakfast of nostalgia,
of tastes that swirl with the delicacy of memories
in these forty-cent cups of brown sugar histories,
in the swirling froth of café-con-leche, que será,

what have they seen that they cannot forget—
the broad-leaf waves of tabaco and plantains
the clay dust of red and nameless mountains,
que será, that this morning I too am a speck;

I am the brilliant guitar of a tropical morning
speaking Spanish and ribboning through potions
of waist-high steam and green cane oceans,
que será, drums vanishing and returning,

the African gods that rule a rhythmic land
playing their music: bongó, bembé, conga;
que será, that cast the spells of this rumba,
this wild birthright, this tropical dance

with the palms of this exotic confusion;
que será, that I too should be a question,
que será, what have I seen, what do I know—
culture of café and loss, this place I call home.
Richard Blanco, "Contemplations at the Virgin de la Caridad Cafeteria, Inc." from City of a Hundred Fires. Copyright © 1998 by Richard Blanco.  Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: City of a Hundred Fires(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

Richard Blanco

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Poem of the Day: October
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.




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Poem of the Day: First Thought
best thought, you had taught
me — a river runs through it,
the foot of the soul standing
stubbornly in the freeze, all
the shards of ice crumpling up
the banks, what survives
in the ignorance. Play it away.
Be ceremony. Be a lit candle
to what blows you. Outside,
the sun gives a favorite present,
mountain nests in ironic meadows,
otter takes off her shoes, the small
hands of her feet reaching, reaching; still,
far away people are dying. Crisp
one dollar bills fold another life.
You taught me to care in the moment,
carve day into light, or something,
moving in the west that doesn't destroy
us. Look again, in the coming summer,
the cruelest month alive still eats up
the hours. Regret is an uneven hand,
a rough palm at the cheek — tender
and calloused. I drink another glass
of water, turn on the tap
for what grows, for you,
for what lasts, for the last
and the first found thought of you.

Lorna Dee Cervantes, "First Thought" from Sueño. Copyright © 2013 by Lorna Dee Cervantes.  Reprinted by permission of Wings Press.

Source: Sueño(Wings Press, 2013)

Lorna Dee Cervantes

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Poem of the Day: Night in Sine
Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow,
Your hands softer than fur.
Above us balance the palm trees, barely rustling
In the night breeze. Not even a lullaby.
Let the rhythmic silence cradle us.
Listen to its song. Hear the beat of our dark blood,
Hear the deep pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.

Now sets the weary moon upon its slack seabed
Now the bursts of laughter quiet down, and even the storyteller
Nods his head like a child on his mother’s back
The dancers’ feet grow heavy, and heavy, too,
Come the alternating voices of singers.

Now the stars appear and the Night dreams
Leaning on that hill of clouds, dressed in its long, milky pagne.
The roofs of the huts shine tenderly. What are they saying
So secretly to the stars? Inside, the fire dies out
In the closeness of sour and sweet smells.

Woman, light the clear-oil lamp. Let the Ancestors
Speak around us as parents do when the children are in bed.
Let us listen to the voices of the Elissa Elders. Exiled like us
They did not want to die, or lose the flow of their semen in the sands.
Let me hear, a gleam of friendly souls visits the smoke-filled hut,
My head upon your breast as warm as tasty dang streaming from the fire,
Let me breathe the odor of our Dead, let me gather
And speak with their living voices, let me learn to live
Before plunging deeper than the diver
Into the great depths of sleep.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Night in Sine” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.

Source: The Collected Poems(The University of Virginia Press, 1998)

Léopold Sédar Senghor

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Poem of the Day: The Fork-in-the-Road Indian...
     I.

i saved my energy as i read,
          like managing held-breath underwater
so i could extend my survey
          and not miss anything great

the fork-in-the-road indian poetry store
on the highway on the northeast side
of wetumka toward weleetka
          large open grassy field behind it
          county road completing the fork
          vanishes in verdant
          north oktahutchee bottomland
i am overcome
by the indianness of this town
                       exhilaration
                       an unexplainable import of joy
                       pervades me
even the few current-age vestiges
do not belie
                        a sense that this town
                        this people have always been here


     II.

the reading today on the lawn is by two elderly sisters
in long gingham dresses who are the last living speakers of yuchi
you can stand still on an aisle inside the store and reach poems
and stories on the shelves in muskoke chikasha chahta and english

all the great indian writers on both sides
of the sweet gum bridge
          rich treasure of people
          alive and well on this continent
          after millennia of continuance
potluck table for reading guests
spread with banaha sofke tanfula
corn soup tobi squash and peppers
                       brown-skinned teenager
                       corner easy chair
                       absorbing the story of an epic
                       stickball competition
which attracted four hundred contestants
and twenty thousand spectators
                       while columbus
                       still navigated in an italian gene pool
                       a century before his birth  


    III.

the building
a turn-of-the-twentieth-century gas station
         abandoned for that use
         before model a’s and t’s
         disappeared from the road
                       has weathered wood clapboard siding
                       and two tapered wood columns
                                     on top of stucco pedestals supporting a roof
                                     which forms a one-car portico

honeysuckle perfumes
summer evening air while
          cicadas and tree frogs
          serenade well-dressed people
          sipping iced tea
                       long shadows massaging
                       green grass

a grandfather
plays a wood flute
          oddly harmonious
          with ratcheting locusts
dark-haired boys and girls
further east
        on the lawn revolve
        around a foam rubber football
                      their cries forming another
                      stratum of sound


     IV.

what words would I write
if my favorite pen were the only pen left
in the world
and it held only a few drops of ink
i would write this
           in the creek talwa
           muskokean peace town
           corn sings harvest
                        bluegills broom red sand
                        with their tail fins
                        in shallow kingfisher pools
                        nearby people drumming
                                      a seated grandmother
                                      with a light spot on a brown iris
                                      in a wrinkle-supple face
                                      looks east through the yard
praying thankfully
and sees her grandmother walking
amongst children playing ball
you are welcome here

Phillip Carroll Morgan, “The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store” from The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store. Copyright © 2006 by Phillip Carroll Morgan. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: The Fork-in-the-Road Indian Poetry Store(Salt Publishing, 2006)

Phillip Carroll Morgan

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Poem of the Day: The Powwow at the End of the...
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam   
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam   
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you   
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find   
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific   
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive   
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon   
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia   
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors   
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River   
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives   
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.   
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after   
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws   
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire   
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told   
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall   
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon   
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us   
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;   
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many   
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing   
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie, “The Powwow at the End of the World” from The Summer of Black Widows. Copyright © 1996 by Sherman Alexie. Used by permission of Hanging Loose Press.

Source: The Summer of Black Widows(Story Line Press, 1996)

Sherman Alexie

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Poem of the Day: My Father Sings, to My...
at Las Villas, a small Carol City bar with a makeshift stage,
where he spends too much time drinking,
pretending he can learn to play the guitar at forty-five,
become a singer, a musician,
who writes about "Que Difícil Es...."
to live in Spanish in Miami,
a city yet to be translated,
in a restaurant where he has taken us for Cuban food,
where I sit, frozen, unable to make a sound,
where Mother smiles,
all her teeth exposed,
squeezes my hand,
where Mae and Mitzy hide
under the table shielding them from shame
with a blood-red tablecloth,
leaving my mother and me,
pale-faced, trapped by the spotlight shining in our eyes,
making it difficult for us to pretend
we do not know the man in the white suit
pointing to us.
 

Sandra M. Castillo, "My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment" from My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment. Copyright © 2002 by Sandra M. Castillo.  Reprinted by permission of White Pine Press.

Source: My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment(White Pine Press, 2002)

Sandra M. Castillo

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Poem of the Day: Autumn Begins in Martins...
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home,
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Therefore,
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

James Wright, “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright © 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose(1990)

James Wright

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Poem of the Day: Lowering Your Standards for...
Words fall out of my coat pocket,
soak in bleach water. I touch everyone’s
dirty dollars. Maslow’s got everything on me.
Fourteen hours on my feet. No breaks.
No smokes or lunch. Blank-eyed movements:
trash bags, coffee burner, fingers numb.
I am hourly protestations and false smiles.
The clock clicks its slow slowing.
Faces blur in a stream of  hurried soccer games,
sunlight, and church certainty. I have no
poem to carry, no material illusions.
Cola spilled on hands, so sticky fingered,
I’m far from poems. I’d write of politicians,
refineries, and a border’s barbed wire,
but I am unlearning America’s languages
with a mop. In a summer-hot red
polyester top, I sell lotto tickets. Cars wait for gas
billowing black. Killing time has new meaning.
A jackhammer breaks apart a life. The slow globe
spirals, and at night black space has me dizzy.
Visionaries off their meds and wacked out
meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery
and humiliation drips with my sweat.
Words some say are weeping twilight and sunrise.
I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man
headbutting his wife in the parking lot.
911: no metered aubade, and nobody but
myself to blame.

Source: Poetry April 2014

Sheryl Luna

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Poem of the Day: October
I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.

Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.

Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.

This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.

Poem copyright ©2010 by Don Thompson, whose most recent book of poetry is Where We Live, Parallel Press, 2009. Reprinted from Plainsongs, Vol. 30, no. 3, Spring 2010, by permission of Don Thompson and the publisher.

Don Thompson

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Poem of the Day: Mood Ring
Inside me lived a small donkey. I didn’t
believe in magic, but the donkey
was a sucker for the stuff. Psychics,
illusionists, arthritics who’d predict
the rainfall. That was the year I had trouble
walking. I over-thought it and couldn’t
get the rhythm right. The donkey re-taught me.
“This foot. Yes, then that one. And swing
your arms as if you’re going to trial
to be exonerated of a crime
you’ve most definitely committed.”
Next, trouble sleeping because
I’d need to crank the generator in my chest
so frequently. Seeing I was overworked,
the donkey finally hauled it out—
it looked shiny and new, a silver dollar—
and tossed it into a flock of birds
who had to fly a long way to find safety.
I knew then I was a large and dangerous man,
what with this donkey living inside me,
but felt futile. One day, during
a final lesson on breathing,
the donkey asked what kind of jeans
I was wearing. I said, “The somber ones.”
“Poor kid.” “So will you be staying on
for a third year, donkey?” “No. I think
I should be leaving soon. I think
I should go and await your arrival beside
the crumpled river.” “Yes, I suppose
you have many important matters to attend to,
but maybe one day I will come and join you
for a drink or, perhaps, for a brief nap.”

Jaswinder  Bolina, "Mood Ring" from Carrier Wave.  Copyright © 2006 by Jaswinder  Bolina.  Reprinted by permission of Center for Literary Publishing.

Source: Carrier Wave(Center for Literary Publishing, 2006)

Jaswinder Bolina

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Poem of the Day: Why I Stayed, 1997—2001
Each time we moved to a new apartment,
and we did three times, I knew
I shouldn't, that I should
 
leave while I had the chance, but each
time we moved to a new apartment
we were desperate,
 
had been kicked out or priced out
and we only had one bed,
no savings, just friends
 
some of whom knew that you fractured
your hand punching through a wall,
inches from my head,
 
and some of whom were aware
that you threw things at me
when I said things
 
you didn't like, as if my words were
things I threw at you first.
It made sense to you.
 
I can't remember the bad things
I said—my self-serving
memory enraged
 
you, and why not: I always
remembered the bad
things you did.
 
And, yes, I do remember
everything you threw:
a chair
 
over our heads at a bar (Liz was
there), a mirror like a frisbee
aimed at my knees,
 
a carton of fried rice that splat
on the shade of our only
nice lamp, oil stains
 
patterned it with tiny bugs.
Also, you threw
me against a
 
wall, but you always said it was because
I made you so mad because
you loved me so much
 
and didn't want to lose me
that you'd lose control
instead and later
 
beg me to stay, that if I left you
it meant you would never
be loved and I couldn't
 
bear to have you think that
about either one of us.
I wasn't someone
 
who'd let herself be hit; I'd never
take that from a man. A man
would be a criminal
 
if he did what you did.
But you had been
hurt and all that
 
pain and anger needed more
time, and I made you so
crazy, I was so
 
stubborn and good at mean
words, what else were you
supposed to do?
 
You liked to raise your fist pretending
to hit me and then
half-smile when
 
I winced or cringed. It was important
that you had never actually hit me,
never punched me
 
with a closed fist: you'd only grabbed me
and choked me and flung me and made
dents in the wall next to me,
 
and narrowly missed me, but we knew you
meant to miss, never truly
meant to clobber me
 
on the head with something heavy,
something light, maybe,
like a book I loved.
 
When a woman you love hits you
on the head with a book
you love, is that love?
 
I was so ashamed and afraid someone
would find out about us, then I was
afraid and ashamed
 
people already knew but didn't know
what to do. Did I really think
this was a secret?
 
Not from the cops we called during two bad
fights or from Peggy who let you stay
with her rent-free that month
 
I kicked you out. You two had a blast.
But I couldn't pay the rent
on my own,
 
so you moved back in, triumphant,
Peggy still in love with you,
and you gloated about
 
how much money you'd saved.
Surrounded by friends,
whom could I tell?
 
Why would I tell anyone who didn't
already know us well enough
to already know?
 
If everyone knew, none of us said so.
We talked, all of us, almost
constantly, intimately,
 
so how did we keep ourselves so quiet?
You and I, together in this,
were alone with this,
 
alone among women who loved us.
The two of us never more alone
than when together.
 

Brenda Shaughnessy, "Why I Stayed, 1997-2001" from So Much Synth. Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Shaughnessy.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: So Much Synth(Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

Brenda Shaughnessy

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Poem of the Day: To the Light of September
When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

Source: Poetry September 2003

W. S. Merwin

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Poem of the Day: The Armadillo
This is the time of year
when almost every night
the frail, illegal fire balloons appear.
Climbing the mountain height,

rising toward a saint
still honored in these parts,
the paper chambers flush and fill with light
that comes and goes, like hearts.

Once up against the sky it's hard
to tell them from the stars—
planets, that is—the tinted ones:
Venus going down, or Mars,

or the pale green one. With a wind,
they flare and falter, wobble and toss;
but if it's still they steer between
the kite sticks of the Southern Cross,

receding, dwindling, solemnly
and steadily forsaking us,
or, in the downdraft from a peak,
suddenly turning dangerous.

Last night another big one fell.
It splattered like an egg of fire
against the cliff behind the house.
The flame ran down. We saw the pair

of owls who nest there flying up
and up, their whirling black-and-white
stained bright pink underneath, until
they shrieked up out of sight.

The ancient owls' nest must have burned.
Hastily, all alone,
a glistening armadillo left the scene,
rose-flecked, head down, tail down,

and then a baby rabbit jumped out,
short-eared, to our surprise.
So soft!—a handful of intangible ash
with fixed, ignited eyes.

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!
O falling fire and piercing cry
and panic, and a weak mailed fist
clenched ignorant against the sky!

Elizabeth Bishop, "The Armadillo" from The Complete Poems 1927-1979. Copyright © 1979 by Elizabeth Bishop. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Poems(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

Elizabeth Bishop

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Poem of the Day: Eclipse with Object
There is a spectacle and something is added to history.
It has as its object an indiscretion: old age, a
gun, the prevention of sleep.

I am placed in its stead
and the requisite shadow is yours.
It casts across me, a violent coat.

It seems I fit into its sleeve.
So the body wanders.
Sometime it goes where light does not reach.

You recall how they moved in the moon dust? Hop, hop.
What they said to us from that distance was stupid.
They did not say I love you for example.

The spectacle has been placed in my room.
Can you hear its episode trailing,
pretending to be a thing with variegated wings?

Do you know the name of this thing?
It is a rubbing from an image.
The subject of the image is that which trespasses.

You are invited to watch. The body
in complete dark casting nothing back.
The thing turns and flicks and opens.

Ann Lauterbach, “Eclipse with Object” from And For Example. Copyright © 1994 by Ann Lauterbach. Reprinted with the permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: If In Time: Selected Poems, 1975-2000(Penguin Books, 2001)

Ann Lauterbach

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Poem of the Day: Sonnet for September 27th
How wonderful that you have recognized
That poetry for children has great worth,
And is a part of being civilized,
Of being human on our planet Earth.
Soon after people first began to speak,
They put their thoughts and feeling into rhyme.
In this they were, and we are now, unique,
And may be so until the end of time.
We celebrate, upon this autumn night
That fledgling of the literary arts
Which crafts its words with wonder and delight
To open children’s minds and touch their hearts.
With gratitude, and true humility,
I thank you all for being here with me.



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Poem of the Day: Not This
my god all the days we have lived thru
saying
 
not this
one, not this,
not now,
not yet, this week
doesn’t count, was lost, this month
was shit, what a year, it sucked,
it flew, that decade was for
what? i raised my kids, they
grew i lost two pasts–i am
not made of them and they
are through.
 
we forget what
we remember:
 
each of the five
the fevered few
 
days we used to
fall in love.

Olena  Kalytiak Davis, "Not This" from The Poem She Didn’t Write and Other Poems.  Copyright © 2014 by Olena  Kalytiak Davis.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Olena Kalytiak Davis

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Poem of the Day: Love Calls Us to the Things of...
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window   
The morning air is all awash with angels.

    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,   
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.   
Now they are rising together in calm swells   
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear   
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving   
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden   
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                             The soul shrinks

    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,   
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,   
The soul descends once more in bitter love   
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,   
    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;   
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,   
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating   
Of dark habits,
                      keeping their difficult balance.”

Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” from Collected Poems 1943-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Richard Wilbur. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Collected Poems 1943-2004(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)

Richard Wilbur

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Poem of the Day: We Wear the Mask
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

Paul Laurence. Dunbar, "“We Wear the Mask.”" from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, )

Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Poem of the Day: Howl
I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark’s bleak furnished room,   
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,   
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses’ rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other’s hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other’s salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State’s Rockland’s and Greystone’s foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time—
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.


II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!


III

Carl Solomon! I’m with you in Rockland
   where you’re madder than I am
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you must feel very strange
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you imitate the shade of my mother
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you’ve murdered your twelve secretaries
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you laugh at this invisible humor
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter
I’m with you in Rockland
   where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio
I’m with you in Rockland
   where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses
I'm with you in Rockland
   where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you scream in a straightjacket that you’re losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse
I’m with you in Rockland
   where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha
I’m with you in Rockland
   where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb
I’m with you in Rockland
   where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won’t let us sleep
I’m with you in Rockland
   where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls’ airplanes roaring over the roof they’ve come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself    imaginary walls collapse    O skinny legions run outside    O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here    O victory forget your underwear we’re free
I’m with you in Rockland
   in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night
Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” from Collected Poems, 1947-1980. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Selected Poems 1947-1995(HarperPerennial, 2001)

Allen Ginsberg

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