Where is it Clean

when your mother can rise from her place
on the pew during the early service,

early enough that the sun barely fills the sky
with its weak straw, but row after row

in the auditorium is flush with folks who want
to be home before the football game gets underway

or hate the slower pace the later service takes
but still got to get their god on

before starting a new week: when she can rise
and tip down the aisle, three-inch heels

pointing a warning at hell through the plush


When you wake tomorrow

I will give you a poem when you wake tomorrow.
It will be a peaceful poem.
It won’t make you sad.
It won’t make you miserable.
It will simply be a poem to give you
When you wake tomorrow.

It was not written by myself alone.
I cannot lay claim to it.
I found it in your body.
In your smile I found it.
Will you recognise it?

You will find it under your pillow.
When you open the cupboard it will be there.
You will blink in astonishment,
Shout out, ‘How it trembles!


When I Wrote A Little

poem in the ancient mode for you
that was musical and had old words

in it such as would never do in
the academies you loved it and you

said you did not know how to thank
me and in truth this is a problem

for who can ever be grateful enough
for poetry but i said you thank me

every day and every night wordlessly
which you really do although again

in truth it is a problem for how can
life ever be consonant with spirit

yet we are human and are naturally


What Were They Like

Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed


What Do You Do About Dry Periods In Your Writing

When the writing is going well,
I am a prince in a desert palace,
fountains flowing in the garden.
I lean an elbow on a velvet pillow
and drink from a silver goblet,
poems like a banquet
spread before me on rugs
with rosettes the damask of blood.
But exiled
from the palace, I wander --
crawling on burning sand,
thirsting on barren dunes,
believing a heartless mirage no less true
than palms and pools of the cool oasis.


Anonymous submission.


What Curious Dresses All Men Wear

What curious dresses all men wear!
The walker you met in a brown study,
The President smug in rotogravure,
The mannequin, the bathing beauty.

The bubble-dancer, the deep-sea diver,
The bureaucrat, the adulterer,
Hide private parts which I disclose
To those who know what a poem knows.


We Learned

The decorum of fire...
-- Pablo Neruda

We learned the decorum of fire,
the flame's curious symmetry,
the blue heat at the center of the thighs,
the flickering red of the hips,
& the tallow gold of the breasts
lit from within
by the lantern in the ribs.

You tear yourself out of me
like a branch that longs to be grafted
onto a fruit tree,
peach & pear
crossed with each other,
fig & banana served on one plate,
the leaf & the luminous snail
that clings to it.


War Profit Litany

To Ezra Pound

These are the names of the companies that have made
money from this war
nineteenhundredsixtyeight Annodomini fourthousand
eighty Hebraic
These are the Corporations who have profited by merchan-
dising skinburning phosphorous or shells fragmented
to thousands of fleshpiercing needles
and here listed money millions gained by each combine for
manufacture
and here are gains numbered, index'd swelling a decade, set
in order,
here named the Fathers in office in these industries, tele-


Walking the Dog

Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down,
Getting a secret knowledge through the nose
Almost entirely hidden from my sight.

We stand while he's enraptured by a bush
Till I can't stand our standing any more
And haul him off; for our relationship
Is patience balancing to this side tug
And that side drag; a pair of symbionts
Contented not to think each other's thoughts.


various quotes from On Poetry and Craft Selected Prose of Theodore Roethke

The poem, even a short time after being written,
seems no miracle; unwritten, it seems
something beyond the capacity of the gods.

*

Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of
haste. It's what everything else isn't.

*

You can't make poetry simply by avoiding clichés.

*

There's a point where plainness is no longer a virtue,
when it becomes excessively bald, wrenched.

*

You must believe: a poem is a holy thing -- a good poem,
that is.


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