Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Tuesday Poem: "The Week Before She Died" by Elise Paschen

I dream us young, again,
mother and daughter back

on 69th Street inside

our old brownstone—across

from the church, patch of lawn— 

a house neglected, wrecked,

as if the family

had been forced at gunpoint

to move away. In corners

dirt stacked like miniscule

anthills; along the edges

of room—crumpled clothes, bodiless;

littered across the floor

dry-cleaning bags, vestiges

of what they once protected.

A Turkish scarf, embroidered

with sequins, glitter, beads,

tantalizes. My mother

holds it close, says, “You should 

wear it.” The doorbell rings.

At the top of the stairs

he waits for us to answer.

My mother’s ballet partner, 

Russian, stows something covert

behind his almond eyes. With three

regal strides he commands

our gaze, pronounces the red

brocade robe his, lofts high 

the scarf, the sash he flung

in Giselle, circling the empty 

living room. With mischief he bows

low before my mother. Her love

for him, a mountain. The doorbell 

chimes. A blond, blue-eyed dancer,

in epaulets, arrives.

She straightens shoulders, turns,

walks away. Rudy asks 

Erik, “Did you ever tell her 

about us?” No response. The secrets 

men keep, my mother knows. 

by Elise Paschen

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Tuesday, 22 October 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, 15 October 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, 8 October 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, 1 October 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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