29
October

Poem of the Day: The Bear

         1
In late winter
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam   
coming up from
some fault in the old snow
and bend close and see it is lung-colored   
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.

         2
I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out   
on the fairway of the bears.

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks,
roaming in circles
until I come to the first, tentative, dark   
splash on the earth.

And I set out
running, following the splashes
of blood wandering over the world.
At the cut, gashed resting places
I stop and rest,
at the crawl-marks
where he lay out on his belly
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice
I lie out
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists.

         3
On the third day I begin to starve,
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would   
at a turd sopped in blood,
and hesitate, and pick it up,
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down,   
and rise
and go on running.

         4
On the seventh day,
living by now on bear blood alone,
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled,   
steamy hulk,
the heavy fur riffling in the wind.

I come up to him
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes,   
the dismayed
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils
flared, catching
perhaps the first taint of me as he
died.

I hack
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink,   
and tear him down his whole length
and open him and climb in
and close him up after me, against the wind,
and sleep.

         5
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra,
stabbed twice from within,
splattering a trail behind me,
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch,
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence,   
which dance of solitude I attempt,
which gravity-clutched leap,
which trudge, which groan.

         6
Until one day I totter and fall—
fall on this
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up,   
to digest the blood as it leaked in,
to break up
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze   
blows over me, blows off
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood   
and rotted stomach
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear,

blows across
my sore, lolled tongue a song
or screech, until I think I must rise up   
and dance. And I lie still.

         7
I awaken I think. Marshlights
reappear, geese
come trailing again up the flyway.
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear
lies, licking
lumps of smeared fur
and drizzly eyes into shapes
with her tongue. And one
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me,
the next groaned out,
the next,
the next,
the rest of my days I spend
wandering: wondering
what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?

Galway Kinnell, "The Bear" from Three Books. Copyright © 2002 by Galway Kinnell. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.

Source: Three Books (2002)

Galway Kinnell

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

28
October

Poem of the Day: Crumbling is not an instant’s Act (1010)

Crumbling is not an instant's Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation's processes
Are organized Decays —

'Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust —

Ruin is formal — Devil's work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crashe's law —

Emily Dickinson, "Crumbling is not an instant's Act" from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, ed by Ralph W. Franklin. Copyright © 1998 by Emily Dickinson.  Reprinted by permission of The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998)

Emily Dickinson

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

27
October

Poem of the Day: Smoke

Can you imagine the air filled with smoke?
It was. The city was vanishing before noon
or was it earlier than that? I can't say because
the light came from nowhere and went nowhere.

This was years ago, before you were born, before
your parents met in a bus station downtown.
She'd come on Friday after work all the way
from Toledo, and he'd dressed in his only suit.

Back then we called this a date, some times
a blind date, though they'd written back and forth
for weeks. What actually took place is now lost.
It's become part of the mythology of a family,

the stories told by children around the dinner table.
No, they aren't dead, they're just treated that way,
as objects turned one way and then another
to catch the light, the light overflowing with smoke.

Go back to the beginning, you insist. Why
is the air filled with smoke? Simple. We had work.
Work was something that thrived on fire, that without
fire couldn't catch its breath or hang on for life.

We came out into the morning air, Bernie, Stash,
Williams, and I, it was late March, a new war
was starting up in Asia or closer to home,
one that meant to kill us, but for a moment

the air held still in the gray poplars and elms
undoing their branches. I understood the moon
for the very first time, why it came and went, why
it wasn't there that day to greet the four of us.

Before the bus came a small black bird settled
on the curb, fearless or hurt, and turned its beak up
as though questioning the day. "A baby crow,"
someone said. Your father knelt down on the wet cement,

his lunchbox balanced on one knee and stared quietly
for a long time. "A grackle far from home," he said.
One of the four of us mentioned tenderness,
a word I wasn't used to, so it wasn't me.

The bus must have arrived. I'm not there today.
The windows were soiled. We swayed this way and that
over the railroad tracks, across Woodward Avenue,
heading west, just like the sun, hidden in smoke.

Source: Poetry (June 1998).

Philip Levine

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

26
October

Poem of the Day: The Blues Don’t Change

And I was born with you, wasn't I, Blues?
Wombed with you, wounded, reared and forwarded
from address to address, stamped, stomped
and returned to sender by nobody else but you,
Blue Rider, writing me off every chance you
got, you mean old grudgeful-hearted, table-
turning demon, you, you sexy soul-sucking gem.
 
Blue diamond in the rough, you are forever.
You can't be outfoxed don't care how they cut
and smuggle and shine you on,  you're like a
shadow, too dumb and stubborn and necessary
to let them turn you into what you ain't
with color or theory or powder or paint.
 
That's how you can stay in style without sticking
and not getting stuck. You know how to sting
where I can't scratch, and you move from frying
pan to skillet the same way you move people
to go to wiggling their bodies, juggling their
limbs, loosening that goose, upping their voices,
opening their pores, rolling their hips and lips.
 
They can shake their boodies but they can't shake you.

Al Young, "The Blues Don't Change" from The Blues Don't Change. Copyright © 1982 by Al Young. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: The Blues Don't Change (Louisiana State University Press, 1982)

Al Young

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

25
October

Poem of the Day: Vanity Flare

Don't get me wrong: I know   
that knowledge is power,   
that mystery's water,   
that hunger makes   
a gargantuan   
lover,   
and yes, I've drunk   
of the river Lethe,   
from the breath of the Celts,   
from the echo of   
the bugling elk,   

and yet,   

alas,   
here I be,   
small and twee,   
all liquored up   
on song and love,   
hard as rails   
and light as air,   
expecting the heavens   
to throw down a flare,   
to send in the clowns,   
to burn a bush,   
strike up the sea,   
anything   

that might mean   
those cloudy bastards   
have noticed me.

Source: Poetry (February 2009).

Wendy Videlock

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

24
October

Poem of the Day: The Ball Poem

What is the boy now, who has lost his ball.
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over—there it is in the water!
No use to say 'O there are other balls':
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take balls,
Balls will be lost always, little boy,
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up
And gradually light returns to the street,
A whistle blows, the ball is out of sight.
Soon part of me will explore the deep and dark
Floor of the harbour . . I am everywhere,
I suffer and move, my mind and my heart move
With all that move me, under the water
Or whistling, I am not a little boy.

John Berryman, "The Ball Poem" from Collected Poems, 1937-1971. Copyright © 1989 by John Berryman. 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: Collected Poems, 1937-1971 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989)

John Berryman

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

23
October

Poem of the Day: Goodbye to Tolerance

Genial poets, pink-faced   
earnest wits—
you have given the world   
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.   
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don't care
if I never taste your fine food again,   
neutral fellows, seers of every side.   
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,   
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped   
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never   
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,   
your loaves grow moldy,   
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won't wave, you're looking
another way.
We shan't meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving   
behind you the cherished   
worms of your dispassion,   
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,   
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle   
for joy ...

Denise Levertov, "Goodbye to Tolerance" from Poems 1972-1982. Copyright © 1975 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: The Freeing of the Dust (New Directions, 1975)

Denise Levertov

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

22
October

Poem of the Day: The Students

The students eat something and then watch the news,
a little, then go to sleep. When morning breaks in
they find they have not forgotten all: they recall
the speckle of words on certain pages of
the chapter assigned, a phrase of strange weight
from a chapter that was not assigned, and something
said almost flippantly by a classmate on the Green
which put much of the 18th century into perspective.
Noticing themselves at the sink they are aware
the hands they wash are the "same" hands
as in high school—though the face is different.
Arriving in the breakfast hall having hardly felt
the transit, they set down their trays on one table;
presently, glance at another corner of the space:
that was where we mostly sat two years ago,
that was where Gerry said what he said
about circles, the concept of, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Mark Halliday, "The Students" from Little Star. Copyright © 1987 by Mark Halliday. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Little Star (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987)

Mark Halliday

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

21
October

Poem of the Day: The Piano Player Explains Himself

When the corpse revived at the funeral,
The outraged mourners killed it; and the soul
Of the revenant passed into the body
Of the poet because it had more to say.
He sat down at the piano no one could play
Called Messiah, or The Regulator of the World,
Which had stood for fifty years, to my knowledge,
Beneath a painting of a red-haired woman
In a loose gown with one bared breast, and played
A posthumous work of the composer S——
About the impotence of God (I believe)
Who has no power not to create everything.
It was the Autumn of the year and wet,
When the music started.  The musician was
Skillful but the Messiah was out of tune
And bent the time and the tone.  For a long hour
The poet played The Regulator of the World
As the spirit prompted, and entered upon
The pathways of His power—while the mourners
Stood with slow blood on their hands
Astonished by the weird processional
And the undertaker figured his bill.
—We have in mind an unplayed instrument
Which stands apart in a memorial air
Where the room darkens toward its inmost wall
And a lady hangs in her autumnal hair
At evening of the November rains; and winds
Sublime out of the North, and North by West,
Are sowing from the death-sack of the seed
The burden of her cloudy hip.  Behold,
I send the demon I know to relieve your need,
An imperfect player at the perfect instrument
Who takes in hand The Regulator of the World
To keep the splendor from destroying us.
Lady!  The last virtuoso of the composer S——
Darkens your parlor with the music of the Law.
When I was green and blossomed in the Spring
I was mute wood.  Now I am dead I sing.

Allen Grossman, "The Work" from The Ether Dome and Other Poems: New and Selected (1979-1991). Copyright © 1991 by Allen Grossman.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Ether Dome and Other Poems: New and Selected (1979-1991) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1991)

Allen Grossman

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

20
October

Poem of the Day: Baseball

The game of baseball is not a metaphor   
and I know it's not really life.   
The chalky green diamond, the lovely   
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes   
multiplying around the cities   
are only neat playing fields.   
Their structure is not the frame   
of history carved out of forest,   
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young   
pitcher through the innings, the line   
of concentration between them,   
that delicate filament is not   
like the way you are helping me,   
only it reminds me when I strain   
for analogies, the way a rookie strains   
for perfection, and the veteran,   
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,   
it glows from his upheld glove,

and the man in front of me
in the grandstand, drinking banana   
daiquiris from a thermos,
continuing through a whole dinner
to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks   
of in Breughel's Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating   
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down   
continuously for more beer

and the young wife trying to understand   
what a full count could be
to please her husband happy in   
his old dreams, or the little boy
in the Yankees cap already nodding   
off to sleep against his father,
program and popcorn memories   
sliding into the future,
and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,   
screaming at the Yankee slugger   
with wounded knees to break his leg

this is not a microcosm,   
not even a slice of life

and the terrible slumps,
when the greatest hitter mysteriously   
goes hitless for weeks, or
the pitcher's stuff is all junk
who threw like a magician all last month,   
or the days when our guys look
like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping   
each other, then suddenly, the play
that wasn't humanly possible, the Kid   
we know isn't ready for the big leagues,   
leaps into the air to catch a ball
that should have gone downtown,   
and coming off the field is hugged   
and bottom-slapped by the sudden   
sorcerers, the winning team

the question of what makes a man   
slump when his form, his eye,
his power aren't to blame, this isn't   
like the bad luck that hounds us,   
and his frustration in the games   
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, "scene in an Easter egg",   
and the order of the ball game,   
the firm structure with the mystery   
of accidents always contained,   
not the wild field we wander in,   
where I'm trying to recite the rules,   
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away

Gail Mazur, "Baseball" from Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). Copyright © 1978 by Gail Mazur. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Nightfire (The University of Chicago Press, 1978)

Gail Mazur

Biography
More poems by this author

no comments

Back to top

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: