Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get Your Poem On, People!

April is National Poetry Month.  It's also Jazz Appreciation Month, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and National Stress Awareness Month (are we not aware of stress the other 11 months?  hmmm.....) and probably National Eat A Cashew While Taking A Bath Month, who knows.  But I wanted to give a special bloggy shout out to the poets.  I'm always awed by good poetry...to me it feels like the most amazing way to make mere words into art.  The first poem that really rocked my world was "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, pretty hilarious to think of myself as a big haired, overly made up, leather jacketed tough girl being bowled over by the story of man dealing with growing old.  It was recently replaced as my top poem by "Privilege Of Being" by Robert Hass, a poem that is a compelling combination of sex, loneliness, angels, and magazine articles about intimacy.  Check it out if you're not familiar.  For my personal salute to my love of poetry, I opted to go with a few poems from poets not as well known, one from a woman I used to work with, one from a pen pal, one from a friend of a friend.  Enjoy.

Words for the Waltz by Kary Wayson (commissioned for the Roethke Readings)

All night long I've resisted his help.
What is the opposite of fast?

Forcing a kid who's throwing a fit
--you standing thing you never sit!
You'll run us all aground!-- Help

has water
just like this: to get us
turned around.
But this kid kicks when you pick her up so

there: throw her down.


--and we have arrived.  We have
arriven.  My minions
push down the plank of my neck
and back.

We stand on four legs like a makeshift table
until all hell's dispatched.
So into the itch!  Into the thicket!
The careful course is cast.

We make emotional revisitings.
On the hills of impassioned ants.


Snail snail glister me forward
bird my back to the wall.
God begot me from my father
and delivered the hospital home.


All day long I've resisted that red
while I tried to make it match.

I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm hacking at the shadows
of my feet.

I've taken the ax of my effort like a paddle
and I'm dragging this raft
through a lake

made of concrete.


Oh hell, oh well.  Admit
you made a mess.
Now you must tear up the carpet.
Now you must repaint the walls.
The color says nothing but there is a judgement:
everything but the garbage can must go.


Often stranded in the middle of a feeling the feeling
of wanting so many is more.
Snail snail glister me forward trail the trailing
translucent cord.


Think of it!  A sycophant!
A guttersnipe!  A gripe!
Good help has rivers
filled with fish--sidelong pickerel

smiles.  Would with the river and would
with the fish.  His red face

the same from behind.


All day long I've insisted on help.
In the basement
I'm like a bad cramp.
The sun is against me the moon would not have me
my tantrum matches the lamp.


I've taken
the ax
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm hacking
at the shadow
of my throat.

I have taken the ax
of my effort
like a paddle
and I'm dragging
this lake

through a hole
in my boat.


There's a mirror

next to the window and a window
on the wall.  Smile, he says
in the middle of the fuss.  Eat it.
Now swallow.


"Twas a lovely dive, my lively dove
What's winter for?  To remember love.

Good help has daughters
just like this: "My father
invented water."
God help us daughters just like this:
I with no rights in this matter.


The body's a closet
with cats in the back.
The seas's grown woolen
and white.  I am
his consolable widow
now--one syllable
bigger than wife.

Kary has two books of fabulous works, Dog and Me, and American Husband.  She is also foxy and a super nice person.

Running from sleep in a country town by Tom Woolery
The last lightning bugs go
homeward to their sleep
replaced by stars
replaced by clouds
replaced by dark sky
that holds the new moon
in its belly.

In the night pastures, the corn
dreams fitfully of the coming tractor.
On the porch, a farmer is drinking tea
Now, it is exactly three in the morning
and my feet are guessing where the road lies
in the dark miles between street lights
and though I run this route every night
each step is a faith leap
not knowing if a next will follow so I become
faster, each stride is faithfulness
to the stride before.

Things have come to this —
drinking warm milk with Sominex, playing Ella
and anything to idle this engine that howls of the hair
of my graying head, the engine that quickens knowing coyotes
are still in the field, behind the trees where crows sleep,
tracing the perimeter of my eyelids, waiting as they waited
for my father when he slept on Christmas Day, dreaming
of tubes to relieve cranial pressure through the end of times—
until I shift gears, dress in darkness, lace my running shoes
and force them to stumble down roads that need repaving
have needed repaving for a dozen years or more,
passing barn shadows
cast by porch light.

A single lightning bug glows near a barbed wire fence.
After short darkness, I see it flicker, again

in the exact space, so I stop running,
wipe the sweat of my face
with a soaked shirt, rest
my hands on my knees,

At the fourth flash I see the legs of the spider
edging the light, soothing the fire, singing the storybook
spinning a sleep
At the fifth light I see that the spider has wrapped
the package entirely, it moves
its legs quickly over its prize,
wrapping the silk one hundred times more strongly than necessary
as if the light itself might allow it to burn free--
It is the love of craftsmanship.

It is the love for completeness.

The sixth flash of light,
like a flashlight beneath bed covers. 

The spider has retreated into the edges now,
waiting as if at a campfire perimiter
counting the seconds
and waiting for the thunder of darkness.

I do not wait for seven--
my feet are already running
muscle memory retracing the route to my drive
while I think of in particular nothing.

Tom lives in Springfield, MO and although we've never met, he never fails to blow my mind.

Lastly, "The Problem With Politics" by Danny Alexander
You came to me
After conceding to give
Stephen King another try,
Well into Salem’s Lot,
You were excited by the character of the priest,
His sense of loss,
Living in an era with no clear lines
Between black and white,
No tangible demons to kill.

So much we could have talked about
But I had to quibble
With the idea of one era versus another,
With the idea of black and white,
With the concept of demons.

King was smart enough to hand
His character
And you
What you needed
I could have said something useful
Or I could have just listened.

Instead I talked polemics
And killed that life-saving conversation
As I did so many times before
And after.

Danny is a friend of a friend, and although I don't read Stephen King, the self awareness of this poem speaks volumes.

If you're of a mind, discover a new poem before April is over.  I'll be back with more original nonsense soon.

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