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Poem of the Day: April
The optimists among us
taking heart because it is spring
skip along
attending their meetings
signing their e-mail petitions
marching with their satiric signs
singing their we shall overcome songs
posting their pungent twitters and blogs
believing in a better world
for no good reason
I envy them
said the old woman

The seasons go round they
go round and around
said the tulip
dancing among her friends
in their brown bed in the sun
in the April breeze
under a maple canopy
that was also dancing
only with greater motions
casting greater shadows
and the grass
hardly stirring

What a concerto
of good stinks said the dog
trotting along Riverside Drive
in the early spring afternoon
sniffing this way and that
how gratifying the cellos of the river
the tubas of the traffic
the trombones
of the leafing elms with the legato
of my rivals’ piss at their feet
and the leftover meat and grease
singing along in all the wastebaskets

Source: Poetry February 2011

Alicia Ostriker

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Poem of the Day: Dear One Absent This Long While
It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;
everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you
at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time
leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.
We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires
over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.
I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint
we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.
I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs
of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter
at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

Lisa Olstein, “Dear One Absent This Long While” from Radio Crackling, Radio Gone. Copyrigh 2006 by Lisa Olstein. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Radio Crackling Radio Gone(Copper Canyon Press, 2006)

Lisa Olstein

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Poem of the Day: The Nineteenth of April
This year, till late in April, the snow fell thick and light:
Thy truce-flag, friendly Nature, in clinging drifts of white,
Hung over field and city: now everywhere is seen,
In place of that white quietness, a sudden glow of green.
 
The verdure climbs the Common, beneath the leafless trees,
To where the glorious Stars and Stripes are floating on the breeze.
There, suddenly as Spring awoke from Winter’s snow-draped gloom,
The Passion-Flower of Seventy-six is bursting into bloom.
 
Dear is the time of roses, when earth to joy is wed,
And garden-plot and meadow wear one generous flush of red;
But now in dearer beauty, to her ancient colors true,
Blooms the old town of Boston in red and white and blue.
 
Along the whole awakening North are those bright emblems spread;
A summer noon of patriotism is burning overhead:
No party badges flaunting now, no word of clique or clan;
But “Up for God and Union!” is the shout of every man.
 
Oh, peace is dear to Northern hearts; our hard-earned homes more dear;
But freedom is beyond the price of any earthly cheer;
And freedom’s flag is sacred; he who would work it harm,
Let him, although a brother, beware our strong right arm!
 
A brother! ah, the sorrow, the anguish of that word!
The fratricidal strife begun, when will its end be heard?
Not this the boon that patriot hearts have prayed and waited for;—
We loved them, and we longed for peace: but they would have it war.
 
Yes; war! on this memorial day, the day of Lexington,
A lightning-thrill along the wires from heart to heart has run.
Brave men we gazed on yesterday, to-day for us have bled:
Again is Massachusetts blood the first for Freedom shed.
 
To war,—and with our brethren, then,—if only this can be!
Life hangs as nothing in the scale against dear Liberty!
Though hearts be torn asunder, for Freedom we will fight:
Our blood may seal the victory, but God will shield the Right!

Source: “Words for the Hour”: A New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry, edited by Faith Barrett and Cristanne Miller(University of Massachusetts Press, 2005)

Lucy Larcom

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Poem of the Day: The Gods Among Us
One of them grants you the ability
to forecast the future; another wrenches
your tongue from your mouth, changes you
into a bird precisely because you have been
given this gift. The gods are generous
 
in this way. I learned to avoid danger, avoid fear,
avoid excitement, these the very triggers that prompt
my wings from their resting place deep inside.
And so, I avoided fights, avoided everything really.
In the locker room, I avoided other boys,
 
all the while intently studying that space
between their shoulder blades, patiently looking
for the tell-tale signs, looking to find even
one other boy like me, the wings buried but
there nonetheless. I studied them from a distance.
 
When people challenge a god, the gods curse them
with the label of madness. It is all very convenient.
And meanwhile, a god took the form of a swan
and raped a girl by the school gates. Another
took the shape of an eagle to abduct a boy
 
from the football field. Mad world.
And what about our teachers? Our teachers
expected us to sit and listen. In Theology, there was
a demon inside each of us; in History,
the demons among us. So many demons
 
in this world. Who among us could have spoken up
against the gods, the gods who continued living
among us? They granted wishes and punishments
much the way they always had. Very few noticed them
casually taking the shape of one thing or another.

 

C. Dale Young, "The Gods Among Us" from The Halo. Copyright © 2016 by C. Dale Young. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

Source: The Halo(Four Way Books, 2016)

C. Dale Young

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Poem of the Day: The Truth
Every time I use
my language, I tell
the truth. A cat
in a white collar,
like a priest with calico
fur, walks across the dead
grass of the yard, and out
through the white fence. The sun’s
strong, but the colors of the lawn
were washed out by the winter, not the light.
February. Stained glass window of the house
next door takes the sun’s full brunt.
It must look spectacular
to the neighbor in my head,
a white-haired woman with an air
of dignity and grace, who
through pools of the intensest
colors climbs the flight of stairs.
I’ve never seen it,
but I know it’s there.

Source: Poetry July/August 2009

Tim Dlugos

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Poem of the Day: Trust
Trust that there is a tiger, muscular
Tasmanian, and sly, which has never been
seen and never will be seen by any human
eye. Trust that thirty thousand sword-
fish will never near a ship, that far
from cameras or cars elephant herds live
long elephant lives. Believe that bees
by the billions find unidentified flowers
on unmapped marshes and mountains. Safe
in caves of contentment, bears sleep.
Through vast canyons, horses run while slowly
snakes stretch beyond their skins in the sun.
I must trust all this to be true, though
the few birds at my feeder watch the window
with small flutters of fear, so like my own.

Source: Poetry May 2003

Susan Kinsolving

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Poem of the Day: Death and Taxes
The housewives laugh at what they can’t avoid:
In single file, buckling one by one
Under the weight of the late summer sun,
They drop their bags, they twitch, and are destroyed.
He hears a voice (there is a bust of Freud
Carved on the mountainside). He tucks the gun
Under his rented beard and starts to run.
(“The housewives laugh at what they can’t avoid.”)
Like She-bears fettered to a rusted moon
They crawl across the parking lot and shed
Tearblood. The office park is closing soon.
Night falls. The neighborhood buries its dead
And changes channels—Zap! Ah, the purity
Of death and taxes and Social Security.

Urayoán Noel, “Death and Taxes” from Kool Logic/La lógica kool. Copyright © 2005 by Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe. Reprinted with permission.

Source: Kool Logic(Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2005)

Urayoán Noel

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Poem of the Day: Iowa City: Early April
This morning a cat—bright orange—pawing at the one patch of new grass in the sand-and tanbark-colored leaves.

And last night the sapphire of the raccoon's eyes in the beam of the flashlight.
He was climbing a tree beside the house, trying to get onto the porch, I think, for a wad of oatmeal
Simmered in cider from the bottom of the pan we'd left out for the birds.

And earlier a burnished, somewhat dazed woodchuck, his coat gleaming with spring,
Loping toward his burrow in the roots of a tree among the drying winter's litter
Of old leaves on the floor of the woods, when I went out to get the New York Times.

And male cardinals whistling back and forth—sireeep, sreeep, sreeep—
Sets of three sweet full notes, weaving into and out of each other like the triplet rhymes in medieval poetry,
And the higher, purer notes of the tufted titmice among them,
High in the trees where they were catching what they could of the early sun.

And a doe and two yearlings, picking their way along the worrying path they'd made through the gully, their coats the color of the forest floor,
Stopped just at the roots of the great chestnut where the woodchuck's burrow was,
Froze, and the doe looked back over her shoulder at me for a long moment, and leapt forward,
Her young following, and bounded with that almost mincing precision in the landing of each hoof
Up the gully, over it, and out of sight. So that I remembered
Dreaming last night that a deer walked into the house while I was writing at the kitchen table,
Came in the glass door from the garden, looked at me with a stilled defiant terror, like a thing with no choices,
And, neck bobbing in that fragile-seeming, almost mechanical mix of arrest and liquid motion, came to the table
And snatched a slice of apple, and stood, and then quietened, and to my surprise did not leave again.

And those little captains, the chickadees, swift to the feeder and swift away.

And the squirrels with their smoke-plume tails trailing digging in the leaves to bury or find buried—
I'm told they don't remember where they put things, that it's an activity of incessant discovery—
Nuts, tree-fall proteins, whatever they forage from around the house of our leavings,

And the flameheaded woodpecker at the suet with his black-and-white ladderback elegant fierceness—
They take sunflower seeds and stash them in the rough ridges of the tree's bark
Where the beaks of the smoke-and-steel blue nuthatches can't quite get at them—
Though the nuthatches sometimes seem to get them as they con the trees methodically for spiders' eggs or some other overwintering insect's intricately packaged lump of futurity
Got from its body before the cold came on.

And the little bat in the kitchen lightwell—
When I climbed on a chair to remove the sheet of wimpled plastic and let it loose,
It flew straight into my face and I toppled to the floor, chair under me,
And it flared down the hall and did what seemed a frantic reconnoiter of the windowed, high-walled living room.
And lit on a brass firelog where it looked like a brown and ash
grey teenaged suede glove with Mephistophelean dreams,
And then, spurt of black sperm, up, out the window, and into the twilight woods.

All this life going on about my life, or living a life about all this life going on,
Being a creature, whatever my drama of the moment, at the edge of the raccoon's world—
He froze in my flashlight beam and looked down, no affect, just looked,
The ringtail curled and flared to make him look bigger and not to be messed with—
I was thinking he couldn't know how charming his comic-book robber's mask was to me,
That his experience of his being and mine of his and his of mine were things entirely apart,
Though there were between us, probably, energies of shrewd and respectful tact, based on curiosity and fear—
I knew about his talons whatever he knew about me—
And as for my experience of myself, it comes and goes, I'm not sure it's any one thing, as my experience of these creatures is not,
And I know I am often too far from it or too near, glad to be rid of it which is why it was such a happiness,
The bright orange of the cat, and the first pool of green grass-leaves in early April, and the birdsong—that orange and that green not colors you'd set next to one another in the human scheme.

And the crows' calls, even before you open your eyes, at sunup.

“Iowa City: Early April” from Sun Under Wood: New Poems by Robert Hass, Copyright (c) 1996 by Robert Hass. Used by Permission of HarperCollins Publishers

Source: Sun Under Wood(HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1996)

Robert Hass

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Poem of the Day: To Daffodils
Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Away,
Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.




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Poem of the Day: April Inventory
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)

W. D. Snodgrass

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Poem of the Day: RIOT

A Poem in Three Parts

              A riot is the language of the unheard. 
              —Martin Luther King, Jr.


John Cabot, out of Wilma, once a Wycliffe, 
all whitebluerose below his golden hair, 
wrapped richly in right linen and right wool, 
almost forgot his Jaguar and Lake Bluff; 
almost forgot Grandtully (which is The 
Best Thing That Ever Happened To Scotch); almost 
forgot the sculpture at the Richard Gray 
and Distelheim; the kidney pie at Maxim’s, 
the Grenadine de Boeuf at Maison Henri. 

Because the “Negroes” were coming down the street. 

Because the Poor were sweaty and unpretty 
(not like Two Dainty Negroes in Winnetka) 
and they were coming toward him in rough ranks. 
In seas. In windsweep. They were black and loud. 
And not detainable. And not discreet. 

Gross. Gross. “Que tu es grossier!” John Cabot 
itched instantly beneath the nourished white 
that told his story of glory to the World. 
“Don’t let It touch me! the blackness! Lord!” he
whispered to any handy angel in the sky. 

But, in a thrilling announcement, on It drove 
and breathed on him: and touched him. In that breath 
the fume of pig foot, chitterling and cheap chili, 
malign, mocked John. And, in terrific touch, old 
averted doubt jerked forward decently, 
cried, “Cabot! John! You are a desperate man, 
and the desperate die expensively today.” 

John Cabot went down in the smoke and fire 
and broken glass and blood, and he cried “Lord! 
Forgive these nigguhs that know not what they do.”






THE THIRD SERMON ON THE WARPLAND

               Phoenix 
                “In Egyptian mythology, a bird 
                which lived for five hundred 
                years and then consumed itself 
                in fire, rising renewed from the ashes.” 
                —webster


The earth is a beautiful place. 
Watermirrors and things to be reflected. 
Goldenrod across the little lagoon. 

The Black Philosopher says 
“Our chains are in the keep of the Keeper 
in a labeled cabinet 
on the second shelf by the cookies, 
sonatas, the arabesques. . . . 
There’s a rattle, sometimes. 
You do not hear it who mind only 
cookies and crunch them. 
You do not hear the remarkable music—‘A 
Death Song For You Before You Die.’ 
If you could hear it 
you would make music too. 
The blackblues.” 




   West Madison Street. 
In “Jessie’s Kitchen” 
nobody’s eating Jessie’s Perfect Food. 
Crazy flowers 
cry up across the sky, spreading 
and hissing This is 
it. 




The young men run. 

They will not steal Bing Crosby but will steal 
Melvin Van Peebles who made Lillie 
a thing of Zampoughi a thing of red wiggles and trebles 
(and I know there are twenty wire stalks sticking out of her 
      head 
as her underfed haunches jerk jazz.) 




A clean riot is not one in which little rioters 
long-stomped, long-straddled, BEANLESS 
but knowing no Why 
go steal in hell 
a radio, sit to hear James Brown 
and Mingus, Young-Holt, Coleman, John on V.O.N. 
and sun themselves in Sin. 

However, what 
is going on 
is going on. 




Fire. 
That is their way of lighting candles in the darkness. 
A White Philosopher said 
‘It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.’ 
                     These candles curse— 
inverting the deeps of the darkness. 

GUARD HERE, GUNS LOADED. 

The young men run. 
The children in ritual chatter 
scatter upon 
their Own and old geography. 

The Law comes sirening across the town. 




A woman is dead. 
Motherwoman. 
She lies among the boxes 
(that held the haughty hats, the Polish sausages) 
in newish, thorough, firm virginity 
as rich as fudge is if you’ve had five pieces. 
Not again shall she 
partake of steak 
on Christmas mornings, nor of nighttime 
chicken and wine at Val Gray Ward’s 
nor say 
of Mr. Beetley, Exit Jones, Junk Smith 
nor neat New-baby Williams (man-to-many) 
“He treat me right.” 

That was a gut gal. 

“We’ll do an us!” yells Yancey, a twittering twelve. 
“Instead of your deathintheafternoon, 
kill ’em, bull! 
kill ’em, bull!” 

The Black Philosopher blares 
“I tell you, exhaustive black integrity 
would assure a blackless Amrica. . . .” 




Nine die, Sun-Times will tell 
and will tell too 
in small black-bordered oblongs “Rumor? check it 
at 744-4111.” 




A Poem to Peanut. 
“Coooooool!” purrs Peanut. Peanut is 
Richard—a Ranger and a gentleman. 
A Signature. A Herald. And a Span. 
This Peanut will not let his men explode. 
And Rico will not. 
Neither will Sengali. 
Nor Bop nor Jeff, Geronimo nor Lover. 
These merely peer and purr, 
and pass the Passion over. 
The Disciples stir 
and thousandfold confer 
with ranging Rangermen; 
mutual in their “Yeah!— 
this AIN’T all upinheah!” 




“But WHY do These People offend themselves?” say they 
who say also “It’s time. 
It’s time to help 
These People.” 




Lies are told and legends made. 
Phoenix rises unafraid. 

The Black Philosopher will remember: 
“There they came to life and exulted, 
the hurt mute. 
Then is was over. 

The dust, as they say, settled.”





AN ASPECT OF LOVE, ALIVE IN THE ICE AND FIRE

                                                                              LaBohem Brown


In a package of minutes there is this We.
How beautiful.
Merry foreigners in our morning,
we laugh, we touch each other, 
are responsible props and posts.

A physical light is in the room.

Because the world is at the window
we cannot wonder very long.

You rise. Although
genial, you are in yourself again.
I observe
your direct and respectable stride.
You are direct and self-accepting as a lion
in Afrikan velvet. You are level, lean,
remote.


There is a moment in Camaraderie
when interruption is not to be understood.
I cannot bear an interruption.
This is the shining joy;
the time of not-to-end.

On the street we smile.
We go
in different directions
down the imperturbable street.



Gwendolyn Brooks, "Riot (three parts)" from Blacks. Copyright © 1994 by Gwendolyn Brooks.  Reprinted by permission of Estate of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Source: Blacks

Gwendolyn Brooks

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Poem of the Day: Casualty
I   

He would drink by himself   
And raise a weathered thumb   
Towards the high shelf,   
Calling another rum   
And blackcurrant, without   
Having to raise his voice,   
Or order a quick stout   
By a lifting of the eyes   
And a discreet dumb-show   
Of pulling off the top;   
At closing time would go   
In waders and peaked cap   
Into the showery dark,   
A dole-kept breadwinner   
But a natural for work.   
I loved his whole manner,   
Sure-footed but too sly,   
His deadpan sidling tact,   
His fisherman’s quick eye   
And turned observant back.   

Incomprehensible   
To him, my other life.   
Sometimes, on the high stool,   
Too busy with his knife   
At a tobacco plug   
And not meeting my eye,   
In the pause after a slug   
He mentioned poetry.   
We would be on our own   
And, always politic   
And shy of condescension,   
I would manage by some trick   
To switch the talk to eels   
Or lore of the horse and cart   
Or the Provisionals.   

But my tentative art   
His turned back watches too:   
He was blown to bits   
Out drinking in a curfew   
Others obeyed, three nights   
After they shot dead   
The thirteen men in Derry.   
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said,   
BOGSIDE NIL. That Wednesday   
Everyone held   
His breath and trembled.   


                   II   

It was a day of cold   
Raw silence, wind-blown   
surplice and soutane:   
Rained-on, flower-laden   
Coffin after coffin   
Seemed to float from the door   
Of the packed cathedral   
Like blossoms on slow water.   
The common funeral   
Unrolled its swaddling band,   
Lapping, tightening   
Till we were braced and bound   
Like brothers in a ring.   

But he would not be held   
At home by his own crowd   
Whatever threats were phoned,   
Whatever black flags waved.   
I see him as he turned   
In that bombed offending place,   
Remorse fused with terror   
In his still knowable face,   
His cornered outfaced stare   
Blinding in the flash.   

He had gone miles away   
For he drank like a fish   
Nightly, naturally   
Swimming towards the lure   
Of warm lit-up places,   
The blurred mesh and murmur   
Drifting among glasses   
In the gregarious smoke.   
How culpable was he   
That last night when he broke   
Our tribe’s complicity?   
‘Now, you’re supposed to be   
An educated man,’   
I hear him say. ‘Puzzle me   
The right answer to that one.’


                   III   

I missed his funeral,   
Those quiet walkers   
And sideways talkers   
Shoaling out of his lane   
To the respectable   
Purring of the hearse...   
They move in equal pace   
With the habitual   
Slow consolation   
Of a dawdling engine,   
The line lifted, hand   
Over fist, cold sunshine   
On the water, the land   
Banked under fog: that morning   
I was taken in his boat,   
The Screw purling, turning   
Indolent fathoms white,   
I tasted freedom with him.   
To get out early, haul   
Steadily off the bottom,   
Dispraise the catch, and smile   
As you find a rhythm   
Working you, slow mile by mile,   
Into your proper haunt   
Somewhere, well out, beyond...   

Dawn-sniffing revenant,   
Plodder through midnight rain,   
Question me again.

Seamus Heaney, "Casualty" from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney. 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: Field Work(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1981)

Seamus Heaney

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Poem of the Day: Spring and Fall
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose(Penguin Classics, 1985)

Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Poem of the Day: Dreaming of Picasso
All night an accelerating
geometry of eyes—hundreds
shaped like birds or boats
or beetles, simplified to dots
or crosses or a pair of 2s or mis-
matched diamonds, perfect zeros,
scoops of moon placed sidewise
or lengthwise on a face, slipping
out of orbit on a cheek, hung
under an ear, planted mid-forehead,
paper-thin planes of them,
each one alive and staring
from the dislocated faces of wives,
lovers, mothers, serene and lopsided,
splintered, wrenching, ravaged,
a proliferating gallery of women,
terraced in my head as I sleep,
and my own curious eye:
steering toward what it perceives,
capturing exact duplicates of each
stylized eye I run by,
as I race to comprehend
what I'm taking in, what expression
I'd see if I raised the mirror
to find my own eye, distorted
and floating above an iron cheek.

Francine Sterle, "Dreaming of Picasso" from Nude in Winter. Copyright © 2006 by Francine Sterle.  Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.

Source: Nude in Winter(Tupelo Press, 2006)

Francine Sterle

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Poem of the Day: In the Jewish Synagogue at...

Here, where the noises of the busy town,
   The ocean's plunge and roar can enter not,
We stand and gaze around with tearful awe,
   And muse upon the consecrated spot.

No signs of life are here: the very prayers
   Inscribed around are in a language dead;
The light of the "perpetual lamp" is spent
   That an undying radiance was to shed.

What prayers were in this temple offered up,
   Wrung from sad hearts that knew no joy on earth,
By these lone exiles of a thousand years,
   From the fair sunrise land that gave them birth!

How as we gaze, in this new world of light,
   Upon this relic of the days of old,
The present vanishes, and tropic bloom
   And Eastern towns and temples we behold.

Again we see the patriarch with his flocks,
   The purple seas, the hot blue sky o'erhead,
The slaves of Egypt,—omens, mysteries,—
   Dark fleeing hosts by flaming angels led.

A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,
   A man who reads Jehovah's written law,
'Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,
   Unto a people prone with reverent awe.

The pride of luxury's barbaric pomp,
   In the rich court of royal Solomon—
Alas! we wake: one scene alone remains,—
   The exiles by the streams of Babylon.

Our softened voices send us back again
   But mournful echoes through the empty hall:
Our footsteps have a strange unnatural sound,
   And with unwonted gentleness they fall.

The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
   All found their comfort in the holy place,
And children's gladness and men's gratitude
   'Took voice and mingled in the chant of praise.

The funeral and the marriage, now, alas!
   We know not which is sadder to recall;
For youth and happiness have followed age,
   And green grass lieth gently over all.

Nathless the sacred shrine is holy yet,
   With its lone floors where reverent feet once trod.
Take off your shoes as by the burning bush,
   Before the mystery of death and God.



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Poem of the Day: Spring
To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.


Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Poem of the Day: Introduction to Poetry
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.

Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple that Astonished Paris. Copyright � 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press.

Source: The Apple that Astonished Paris(University of Arkansas Press, 1996)

Billy Collins

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Poem of the Day: In Memoriam: Martin Luther...
I

honey people murder mercy U.S.A.   
the milkland turn to monsters teach   
to kill to violate pull down destroy   
the weakly freedom growing fruit   
from being born

America

tomorrow yesterday rip rape   
exacerbate despoil disfigure   
crazy running threat the   
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast   
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy   
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing

death by men by more
than you or I can

STOP


       II

They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal   
stage direction obvious   
like shorewashed shells

we share an afternoon of mourning   
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal   
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more
June Jordan, “In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.” from Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust. Reprinted with the permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature(1997)

June Jordan

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Poem of the Day: In a Word, a World
I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satchelful can land you a job, a
well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate
a stampede, and therefore can be formally outlawed—even by a liberal court
bent on defending a constitution guaranteeing unimpeded utterance. I love that
the Argentine gaucho has over two hundred words for the coloration of horses
and the Sami language of Scandinavia has over a thousand words for reindeer
based on age, sex, appearance—e.g., a busat has big balls or only one big ball.
More than the pristine, I love the filthy ones for their descriptive talent as well as
transgressive nature. I love the dirty ones more than the minced, in that I respect
extravagant expression more than reserved. I admire reserve, especially when
taken to an ascetic nth. I love the particular lexicons of particular occupations.
The substrate of those activities. The nomenclatures within nomenclatures. I am
of the unaccredited school that believes animals did not exist until Adam assigned
them names. My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter
of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing
named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.
 

C. D. Wright, "In a Word, a World" from The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All. Copyright © 2016 by C. D. Wright. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All(Copper Canyon Press, 2016)

C. D. Wright

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Poem of the Day: Space Bar
Lined up behind the space bartender
is the meaning of it all, the vessels
marked with letters, numbers,
signs. Beyond the flats

the monitor looms, for all the world
like the world. Images and
motions, weeping women,
men in hats. I have killed

many happy hours here,
with my bare hands,
where TV passes for IV, among
the space cadets and dingbats.

Heather McHugh, "Space Bar" from Poetry Magazine (Chicago: Poetry, 2008).

Source: Poetry March 2008

Heather McHugh

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Poem of the Day: Easter
is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,  

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble
fact:

they are not
coming back.


Source: Poetry January 2011

Jill Alexander Essbaum

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Poem of the Day: The seder's order
The songs we join in
are beeswax candles
burning with no smoke
a clean fire licking at the evening
 
our voices small flames quivering.
The songs string us like beads
on the hour. The ritual is
its own melody that leads us

where we have gone before
and hope to go again, the comfort
of year after year. Order:
we must touch each base

of the haggadah as we pass,
blessing, handwashing,
dipping this and that. Voices
half harmonize on the brukhahs.

Dear faces like a multitude
of moons hang over the table
and the truest brief blessing:
affection and peace that we make.

Marge Piercy, "The Seder’s Order" from The Crooked Inheritance. Copyright © 2006 by Marge Piercy.  Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Source: The Crooked Inheritance(2006)

Marge Piercy

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Poem of the Day: 1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou...
You used to say, “June?
Honey when you come down here you
supposed to stay with me. Where
else?”
Meanin home
against the beer the shotguns and the
point of view of whitemen don’
never see Black anybodies without
some violent itch start up.
                                       The ones who   
said, “No Nigga’s Votin in This Town . . .
lessen it be feet first to the booth”   
Then jailed you   
beat you brutal   
bloody/battered/beat   
you blue beyond the feeling   
of the terrible

And failed to stop you.   
Only God could but He   
wouldn’t stop   
you
fortress from self-
pity

Humble as a woman anywhere   
I remember finding you inside the laundromat   
in Ruleville   
                  lion spine relaxed/hell   
                  what’s the point to courage   
                  when you washin clothes?   

But that took courage

                  just to sit there/target   
                  to the killers lookin   
                  for your singin face   
                  perspirey through the rinse   
                  and spin

and later   
you stood mighty in the door on James Street   
loud callin:


                  “BULLETS OR NO BULLETS!   
                  THE FOOD IS COOKED   
                  AN’ GETTIN COLD!”

We ate
A family tremulous but fortified
by turnips/okra/handpicked
like the lilies

filled to the very living   
full
one solid gospel
                        (sanctified)

one gospel
                (peace)

one full Black lily   
luminescent   
in a homemade field   

of love

June Jordan, “1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” from Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by The June M. Jordan Literary Trust. Used by permission of The June M. Jordan Literary Trust, www.junejordan.com.

Source: The Collected Poems of June Jordan(2005)

June Jordan

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Poem of the Day: Unusually Warm March Day,...
Everything is half here,
like the marble head
of the Roman emperor
and the lean torso
of his favorite.
The way the funnel cloud
which doesn't seem
to touch ground does—
flips a few cars, a semi—
we learn to walk miles
above our bodies.
The pig farms dissolve,
then the small hills.
As in dreams fraught
with irrevocable gestures,
the ruined set seems larger,
a charred palace the gaze
tunnels through
and through. How well
we remember the stage—
the actors gliding about
like petite sails, the balustrade
cooling our palms.
Not wings or singing,
but a darkness fast as blood.
It ended at our fingertips:
the fence gave way
to the forest.
The world began.

Source: Poetry March 2002

Francesca Abbate

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Poem of the Day: Changing Woman
If we change as she is changing,
if she changes as we change

(If she changes, I am changing)

Who is changing, as I bend
down to what the sky has sent us?

(Is she changing, or the same?)

Reprinted with permission of the author and Story Line Press (www.storylinepress.com).

Source: Eve(Story Line Press, 1997)

Annie Finch

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