Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "Aunt Helen" by T.S. Eliot

Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt,
And lived in a small house near a fashionable square

Cared for by servants to the number of four.

Now when she died there was silence in heaven

And silence at her end of the street.

The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet —

He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before.

The dogs were handsomely provided for,

But shortly afterwards the parrot died too.

The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece,

And the footman sat upon the dining-table

Holding the second housemaid on his knees —

Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived.

by T.S. Eliot

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "Climbing Milestone Mountain, August 22, 1937" by Kenneth Rexroth

For a month now, wandering over the Sierras,   
A poem had been gathering in my mind,   

Details of significance and rhythm,

The way poems do, but still lacking a focus.   

Last night I remembered the date and it all   

Began to grow together and take on purpose.

   We sat up late while Deneb moved over the zenith   

And I told Marie all about Boston, how it looked   

That last terrible week, how hundreds stood weeping   

Impotent in the streets that last midnight.

I told her how those hours changed the lives of thousands,

How America was forever a different place   

Afterwards for many.

                              In the morning

We swam in the cold transparent lake, the blue   

Damsel flies on all the reeds like millions   

Of narrow metallic flowers, and I thought   

Of you behind the grille in Dedham, Vanzetti,

Saying, “Who would ever have thought we would make this history?”

Crossing the brilliant mile-square meadow   

Illuminated with asters and cyclamen,   

The pollen of the lodgepole pines drifting   

With the shifting wind over it and the blue   

And sulphur butterflies drifting with the wind,   

I saw you in the sour prison light, saying,   

“Goodbye comrade.”

                           In the basin under the crest

Where the pines end and the Sierra primrose begins,   

A party of lawyers was shooting at a whiskey bottle.   

The bottle stayed on its rock, nobody could hit it.

Looking back over the peaks and canyons from the last lake,   

The pattern of human beings seemed simpler   

Than the diagonals of water and stone.   

Climbing the chute, up the melting snow and broken rock,

I remembered what you said about Sacco,

How it slipped your mind and you demanded it be read into the record.

Traversing below the ragged arĂȘte,

One cheek pressed against the rock

The wind slapping the other,

I saw you both marching in an army

You with the red and black flag, Sacco with the rattlesnake banner.

I kicked steps up the last snow bank and came   

To the indescribably blue and fragrant

Polemonium and the dead sky and the sterile

Crystalline granite and final monolith of the summit.   

These are the things that will last a long time, Vanzetti,

I am glad that once on your day I have stood among them.   

Some day mountains will be named after you and Sacco.   

They will be here and your name with them,

“When these days are but a dim remembering of the time   

When man was wolf to man.”

I think men will be remembering you a long time   

Standing on the mountains

Many men, a long time, comrade.

by Kenneth Rexroth

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "Advice to a Prophet" by Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,

Not proclaiming our fall but begging us

In God's name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,

The long numbers that rocket the mind;

Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,

Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.

How should we dream of this place without us?--

The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,

A stone look on the stone's face?

Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive

Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost

How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,

How the view alters.  We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip

Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,

The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,

The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn

As Xanthus once, its gliding trout

Stunned in a twinkling.  What should we be without

The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?

Ask us, prophet, how we shall call

Our natures forth when that live tongue is all

Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean

Horse of our courage, in which beheld

The singing locust of the soul unshelled,

And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose

Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding

Whether there shall be lofty or long standing

When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

by Richard Wilbur

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "To Put One Brick Upon Another" by Philip Larkin

To put one brick upon another,
Add a third and then a forth,

Leaves no time to wonder whether

What you do has any worth.


But to sit with bricks around you

While the winds of heaven bawl

Weighing what you should or can do

Leaves no doubt of it at all.

by Philip Larkin

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "Truth" by Gwendolyn Brooks

And if sun comes 
How shall we greet him?

Shall we not dread him,

Shall we not fear him

After so lengthy a

Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,

Though we have prayed

All through the night-years—

What if we wake one shimmering morning to

Hear the fierce hammering

Of his firm knuckles

Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?—

Shall we not flee

Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter

Of the familiar

Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it

To sleep in the coolness

Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily

Over the eyes.

by Gwendolyn Brooks

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "The Mixed Marriage" by Paul Muldoon

My father was a servant-boy.
When he left school at eight or nine

He took up billhook and loy

To win the ground he would never own.

My mother was the school-mistress,

The world of Castor and Pollux.

There were twins in her own class.

She could never tell which was which.

She had read one volume of Proust,

He knew the cure for farcy.

I flitted between a hole in the hedge

And a room in the Latin Quarter.

When she had cleared the supper-table

She opened 
The Acts of the Apostles,
Aesop’s Fables, Gulliver’s Travels
Then my mother went on upstairs

And my father further dimmed the light

To get back to hunting with ferrets

Or the factions of the faction-fights,

The Ribbon Boys, the Caravats.

by Paul Muldoon

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday Poem: "A Series of Haiku" by Etheridge Knight

Eastern guard tower 

glints in sunset; convicts rest 

like lizards on rocks. 

The piano man 

is stingy, at 3 A.M. 

his songs drop like plum. 

Morning sun slants cell. 

Drunks stagger like cripple flies 

On jailhouse floor. 

To write a blues song 

is to regiment riots 

and pluck gems from graves. 

A bare pecan tree 

slips a pencil shadow down 

a moonlit snow slope. 

The falling snow flakes 

Cannot blunt the hard aches nor 

Match the steel stillness. 

Under moon shadows 

A tall boy flashes knife and 

Slices star bright ice. 

In the August grass 

Struck by the last rays of sun 

The cracked teacup screams. 

Making jazz swing in 

Seventeen syllables AIN’T 

No square poet’s job. 

by Etheridge Knight

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