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

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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

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17
October

Poem of the Day: “Still to be neat, still to be dressed”

Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed; 
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.

Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
                       Than all th'adulteries of art. 
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.


Ben Jonson

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15
October

Poem of the Day: The Memory of Elena

We spend our morning
in the flower stalls counting
the dark tongues of bells
that hang from ropes waiting   
for the silence of an hour.
We find a table, ask for paella,
cold soup and wine, where a calm   
light trembles years behind us.

In Buenos Aires only three
years ago, it was the last time his hand   
slipped into her dress, with pearls   
cooling her throat and bells like
these, chipping at the night—

As she talks, the hollow
clopping of a horse, the sound   
of bones touched together.
The paella comes, a bed of rice   
and camarones, fingers and shells,   
the lips of those whose lips
have been removed, mussels
the soft blue of a leg socket.

This is not paella, this is what
has become of those who remained   
in Buenos Aires. This is the ring   
of a rifle report on the stones,   
her hand over her mouth,
her husband falling against her.

These are the flowers we bought   
this morning, the dahlias tossed
on his grave and bells
waiting with their tongues cut out   
for this particular silence.

Carolyn Forché, "The Memory of Elena" from The Country Between Us. Copyright © 1981 by Carolyn Forché. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Country Between Us (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1982)

Carolyn Forché

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14
October

Poem of the Day: Chemo Side Effects: Memory

Where is the word I want?

Groping
in the thicket,
about to pinch the
dangling
berry, my fingerpads
close on
air.

I can hear it
scrabbling like a squirrel
on the oak's far side.
 
Word, please send over this black stretch of ocean
your singular flare,
blaze
your topaz in the mind's blank.

I could always pull the gift
from the lucky-dip barrel,
scoop the right jewel
from my dragon's trove....

Now I flail,
the wrong item creaks up
on the mental dumbwaiter.

No use—
it's turning
out of sight,
a bicycle down a
Venetian alley—
I clatter after, only to find
gondolas bobbing in sunny silence,
a pigeon mumbling something
I just can't catch.

Elise Partridge, "Chemo Side Effects: Memory" from Chameleon Hours. Copyright © 2008 by Elise Partridge.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Chameleon Hours (University of Chicago Press, 2008)

Elise Partridge

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12
October

Poem of the Day: You Say, Columbus with his Argosies

You say, Columbus with his argosies
Who rash and greedy took the screaming main
And vanished out before the hurricane
Into the sunset after merchandise,
Then under western palms with simple eyes
Trafficked and robbed and triumphed home again:
You say this is the glory of the brain
And human life no other use than this?
I then do answering say to you: The line
Of wizards and of saviours, keeping trust
In that which made them pensive and divine,
Passes before us like a cloud of dust.
What were they? Actors, ill and mad with wine,
And all their language babble and disgust.


Trumbull Stickney

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10
October

Lament

Any poem expressing deep grief, usually at the death of a loved one or some other loss. Related to elegy and the dirge. See “A Lament” by Percy Bysshe Shelley; Thom Gunn’s “Lament”; and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Lament.”

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10
October

Poem of the Day: Snail

Mother and father gave birth to a snail
Night and day I crawl in smelly weeds
Dear prince, if you love me, unfasten my door
Stop, don't poke your finger up my tail!

Source: Poetry (April 2008).

Ho Xuan Huong

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9
October

Poem of the Day: How to Spend a Birthday

Light a match. Watch the blue part

                                                             flare like a shocked piñata

                                            from the beating
                                            into the sky,

                                                             watch how fast thin

wood burns & turns toward the skin,

the olive-orange skin of your thumb
 
                                                             & let it burn, too.

Light a fire. Drown out the singing cats.

Let the drunken mariachis blaze their way,

streaking like crazed hyenas

over a brown hill, just underneath

a perfect birthday moon.

Lee Herrick, "How to Spend a Birthday" from The Many Miles from Desire. Copyright © 2007 by Lee Herrick, published by WordTech Communications LLC.  Reprinted by permission of Lee Herrick.

Source: The Many Miles from Desire (WordTech Communications, 2007)

Lee Herrick

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8
October

Poem of the Day: Centrifugal

The spider living in the bike seat has finally spun
its own spokes through the wheels.
I have seen it crawl upside down, armored
black and jigging back to the hollow frame,
have felt the stickiness break
as the tire pulls free the stitches of last night's sewing.
We've ridden this bike together for a week now,
two legs in gyre by daylight, and at night,
the eight converting gears into looms, handle bars
into sails. This is how it is to be part of a cycle—
to be always in motion, and to be always
woven to something else.

Poem copyright ©2011 by Douglas S. Jones, whose most recent book of poems is the chapbook No Turning East, Pudding House Press, 2011. Poem reprinted from The Pinch, Vol. 31, no. 2, 2011, by permission of Douglas S. Jones and the publisher.

Douglas S. Jones

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