category poem items On Turning 37 by Kareem Tayyar Today you remind yourself that although Buddy Holly was 17 When he first sang “Peggy Sue”, And that Fitzgerald was 24 when he published This Side of Paradise, And that Dylan was only 21 when he composed “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” In the studio while the other musicians shot pool and played cards, Whitman was 37 when he wrote "Song of Myself", Rousseau was 40 when he first picked up a paintbrush in his Paris apartment And began creating those indelible images of the African jungles That were largely responsible for the birth of Modem Art, And even J.F.K, He of that perpetual youth and beauty that signaled a departure from The grandfather-politics of men like Eisenhower and Truman, Was 43 when he took the oath of office for the Presidency. In other words, Go back to sleep, buddy. There is still plenty of time to climb the mountain, And there is no reason to think that your best days are already behind you. "On Turning 37" by Kareem Tayyar from Magic Carpet Poems. © Tebot Bach Press, 2015. Song to Celia by Ben Jonson Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I’ll not look for wine. The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine; But might I of Jove’s nectar sup, I would not change for thine. I sent thee late a rosy wreath, Not so much honoring thee As giving it a hope that there It could not withered be. But thou thereon didst only breathe, And sent’st it back to me; Since when it grows, and smells, I swear, Not of itself but thee. "Song to Celia" by Ben Jonson. Public Domain. Deceiving the Gods by Ellen Bass The old Jews rarely admitted good fortune. And if they did, they’d quickly add kinahora— let the evil eye not hear. What dummkopf would think the spirits were on our side? But even in a tropical paradise laden with sugarcane and coconut, something like the shtetl’s wariness exists. In Hawaii, I’m told, a fisherman never spoke directly, lest the gods arrive at the sea before him. Instead he’d look to the sky, the fast-moving clouds, and say, I wonder if leaves are falling in the uplands! Let us go and gather leaves. So, my love, today let’s not talk at all. Let’s be like those couples eating silently in restaurants, barely a word the entire meal. We pitied them, but now I see they were always so much smarter than we were. "Deceiving the Gods" by Ellen Bass from Like a Beggar. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014. Do not go gentle into that good night Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953 Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. If... Rudyard Kipling If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools: If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!' If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son! Look It Over by Wendell Berry I leave behind even my walking stick. My knife is in my pocket, but that I have forgot. I bring no car, no cell phone, no computer, no camera, no CD player, no fax, no TV, not even a book. I go into the woods. I sit on a log provided at no cost. It is the earth I’ve come to, the earth itself, sadly abused by the stupidity only humans are capable of but, as ever, itself. Free. A bargain! Get it while it lasts. "Look It Over" by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems. © Counterpoint Press, 2012. Violets By Mary Oliver Down by the rumbling creek and the tall trees- Where I went truant from school three days a week And therefore broke the record- There were violets as easy in their lives As anything you have ever seen Or leaned down to intake the sweet breath of. Later, when the necessary houses were built They were gone, and who give significance To their absence. Oh, violets, you did signify, and what shall take Your place? School Prayer by Diane Ackerman In the name of the daybreak and the eyelids of morning and the wayfaring moon and the night when it departs, I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace. In the name of the sun and its mirrors and the day that embraces it and the cloud veils drawn over it and the uttermost night and the male and the female and the plants bursting with seed and the crowning seasons of the firefly and the apple, I will honor all life -wherever and in whatever form it may dwell-on Earth my home, and in the mansions of the stars. "School Prayer" by Diane Ackerman from I Praise My Destroyer. © Vintage Books, 2000. Late For Summer Weather by William Carlos Williams He has on an old light grey Fedora She a black beret He a dirty sweater She an old blue coat that fits her tight Grey flapping pants Red skirt and broken down black pumps Fat Lost Ambling nowhere through the upper town they kick their way through heaps of fallen maple leaves still green-and crisp as dollar bills Nothing to do. Hot cha! “Late For Summer Weather” by William Carlos Williams from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams. © New Directions, 1991. Reprinted with permission. Swimming to New Zealand by Douglas Goetsch Once or twice in life you find a woman you’d swim the ocean for. What are you doing? friends will ask, as you perfect your stroke, meantime pitying everyone outside of love. Your only obstacle, the blue Pacific- where your sun sinks, she’s dressing in the morning, and when the dawn comes reaching back around, turning up the volume in your city, she’s drawing blinds, removing her make-up. If you were Gatsby you would build a mansion in some cove off the Tasmanian sea and throw parties to lure her in. You’re not of course-though nothing’s impossible, except life without her, and so you swim. Swimming to New Zealand" by Douglas Goetsch from Nameless Boy. © Orchises Press, 2015. Rebound Banjo by Paul Hostovsky She left him for her ex who played the 5-string banjo in a bluegrass band and whom she’d left for him-and not three months before-for a short sweet-smelling spring, wound him like a string around the tuning peg of her index, touched him and he stiffened, and he sang. And he broke down and wept when she went back to her banjo-playing ex like a second thought about a second fiddle, a repeating chorus or refrain. So he went out west to forget her. But he couldn’t forget- he saw her everywhere, saw her hands in the hands of strangers, saw her hair on the heads of strangers, saw her breasts in the shapes of the Grand Tetons high against the big Wyoming sky at twilight. And on a side street in Jackson, he saw it in the window of the pawn shop, its slender neck adorned with mother-of-pearl inlay, its fifth tuning peg indented like a new paragraph, a new chapter, its pale full-moon face a blank slate. And he bought it for fifty bucks which included the case, capo, strap, three fingerpicks and a Mel Bay’s Learn to Play the Five-String Banjo book. He was motivated. To win her back, of course. And of course he didn’t win her back. But he did learn to play in a frailing way “Cripple Creek” and “Old Joe Clark” and “Sail Away Ladies Sail Away.” "Rebound Banjo" by Paul Hostovsky from The Bad Guys. © Future Cycle Press, 2015. Inside by Dan Albergotti In the lake, the cottonmouth. In the sea, the shark. In the soil, the growing seed. In the tree, the lark. In the dark, the insects’ call. In the light, the trust. In the child, the weight of years. In the steel, the rust. In the dust, the memory. In the air, your soul. In my head, the unsaid words. In the diamond, coal. In the hole, your polished box. In the earth, the quake. In my blood, your vessel ran. In these lines, its wake. "Inside” by Dan Albergotti from Millennial Teeth. © Southern Illinois University Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. Splitting an Order by Ted Kooser I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half, maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread, no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place, and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner, observing his progress through glasses that moments before he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring, and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon, her knife and her fork in their proper places, then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him. "Splitting an Order" by Ted Kooser from Splitting an Order. The Japanese Garden by Ron Padgett In 1958 or ’59 when I was sixteen I came up with the idea of replacing my parents’ backyard with a Japanese garden- this in a middle-class neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I even showed a design to my mother, who tried to imagine her smooth green lawn replaced by rocks, gravel, and, somehow, a stream. Even before she said diplomatically I’ll show this to your daddy I saw that the whole idea was unrealistic, and I put out my hand for the drawing, relieved to be denied. But what if my parents had gone on not only to put in the garden but also to demolish our house and replace it with a Japanese one, donned kimonos and learned Japanese, my dad strutting among the pines like a samurai, mother on bended knees, head bowed? The house stayed the same, the grass grew and got mowed, I went away to college, my parents divorced. Now someone else lives there, happy among the cherry blossoms that never fall. "The Japanese Garden" by Ron Padgett from How Long. © Coffee House Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. Father's Voice by William Stafford "No need to get home early; the car can see in the dark." He wanted me to be rich the only way we could, easy with what we had. And always that was his gift, given for me ever since, easy gift, a wind that keeps on blowing for flowers or birds wherever I look. World, I am your slow guest, one of the common things that move in the sun and have close, reliable friends in the earth, in the air, in the rock. The Blue Robe by Wendell Berry How joyful to be together, alone as when we first were joined in our little house by the river long ago, except that now we know each other, as we did not then; and now instead of two stories fumbling to meet, we belong to one story that the two, joining, made. And now we touch each other with the tenderness of mortals, who know themselves: how joyful to feel the heart quake at the sight of a grandmother, old friend in the morning light, beautiful in her blue robe! ------------- What We Might Be, What We Are by X. J. Kennedy If you were a scoop of vanilla And I were the cone where you sat, If you were a slowly pitched baseball And I were the swing of a bat, If you were a shiny new fishhook And I were a bucket of worms, If we were a pin and a pincushion, We might be on intimate terms. If you were a plate of spaghetti And I were your piping-hot sauce, We’d not even need to write letters To put our affection across, But you’re just a piece of red ribbon In the beard of a Balinese goat And I’m a New Jersey mosquito. I guess we’ll stay slightly remote. "What We Might Be, What We Are" by X.J. Kennedy from Exploding Gravity. © Little Brown, 1992 Retired by Faith Shearin On the island where I was a child nearly everyone was retired, their fortunes already made. Death was around them the way water was around our streets. They taught me how to go fishing without catching fish; the tide’s breath was marked in notebooks they kept beneath their pillows. One old lady fed me chocolates from a tin until my teeth were stained by greed. The old do things slowly so I grew used to grocery store lines that did not move, cars that stopped in the middle of the road. One man spent a whole day helping me bury a squirrel; we wrote odes and dirges to the way it once hurried and planned. "Retired" by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015. It Is Raining on the House of Anne Frank by Linda Pastan It is raining on the house of Anne Frank and on the tourists herded together under the shadow of their umbrellas, on the perfectly silent tourists who would rather be somewhere else but who wait here on stairs so steep they must rise to some occasion high in the empty loft, in the quaint toilet, in the skeleton of a kitchen or on the map- each of its arrows a barb of wire- with all the dates, the expulsions, the forbidding shapes of continents. And across Amsterdam it is raining on the Van Gogh Museum where we will hurry next to see how someone else could find the pure center of light within the dark circle of his demons. "It Is Raining on the House of Anne Frank" by Linda Pastan from Carnival Evening. © Norton, 1998. The Dog By Gerald Stern What I was doing with my white teeth exposed like that on the side of the road I don't know, and I don't know why I lay beside the sewer so that the lover of dead things could come back with is pencil sharpened and his piece of white paper. I was there for a good two hours whistling dirges, shrieking a little, terrifying hearts with my whimpering cries before I died by pulling the one leg up and stiffening. There is a look we have with the hair of the chin curled in mid-air, there is a look with the belly stopped in the midst of its greed. The lover of dead things stoops to feel me, his hand is shaking. I know his mouth is open and his glasses are slipping. I think his pencil must be jerking and the terror of smell—and sight—is overtaking him; I know he has that terrified faraway look that death brings—he is contemplating. I want him to touch my forehead once again and rub my muzzle before he lifts me up and throws me into that little valley. I hope he doesn't use his shoe for fear of touching me; I know, or used to know, the grasses down there; I think I knew a hundred smells. I hope the dog's way doesn't overtake him, one quick push, barely that, and the mind freed, something else, some other, thing to take its place. Great heart, great human heart, keep loving me as you lift me, give me your tears, great loving stranger, remember, the death of dogs, forgive the yapping, forgive the shitting, let there be pity, give me your pity. How could there be enough? I have given my life for this, emotion has ruined me, oh lover, I have exchanged my wildness—little tricks with the mouth and feet, with the tail, my tongue is a parrot's, I am a rampant horse, I am a lion, I wait for the cookie, I snap my teeth— as you have taught me, oh distant and brilliant and lonely. My Grandparents' Generation by Faith Shearin They are taking so many things with them: their sewing machines and fine china, their ability to fold a newspaper with one hand and swat a fly. They are taking their rotary telephones, and fat televisions, and knitting needles, their cast iron frying pans, and Tupperware. They are packing away the picnics and perambulators, the wagons and church socials. They are wrapped in lipstick and big band music, dressed in recipes. Buried with them: bathtubs with feet, front porches, dogs without leashes. These are the people who raised me and now I am left behind in a world without paper letters, a place where the phone has grown as eager as a weed. I am going to miss their attics, their ordinary coffee, their chicken fried in lard. I would give anything to be ten again, up late with them in that cottage by the river, buying Marvin Gardens and passing go, collecting two hundred dollars. "My Grandparents' Generation" by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University First Yoga Lesson By Mary Oliver “Be a lotus in the pond,” she said, “opening slowly, no single energy tugging against another but peacefully, all together.” I couldn’t even touch my toes. “Feel your quadriceps stretching?” she asked. Well, something was certainly stretching. Standing impressively upright, she raised one leg and placed it against the other, then lifted her arms and shook her hands like leaves. “Be a tree,” she said. I lay on the floor, exhausted. But to be a lotus in the pond opening slowly, and very slowly rising– that I could do. -From Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses Poems When the Going Gets Tough... By KATRINA KENISON, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR, Krista Tippett When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead. When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness. When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it. When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance. When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth. When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness. When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind. When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings. When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind. When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time. The Rose By Mark Strand The sorrows of the rose were mounting up. Twisted in a field of weeds, the helpless rose felt the breeze of paradise just once, then died. The children cried, “Oh rose, come back. We love you, rose.” Then someone said that soon they'd have another rose. “Come, my darlings, down to the pond, lean over the edge and look at yourselves looking up. Now do you see it, its petals open, rising to the surface, turning into you?” “Oh no,” they said. "We are what we are — nothing else." How perfect. How ancient. How past repair. High School Senior By Sharon Olds For seventeen years, her breath in the house at night, puff, puff, like summer cumulus above her bed, and her scalp smelling of apricots — this being who had formed within me, squatted like a wide-eyed tree-frog in the night, like an eohippus she had come out of history slowly, through me, into the daylight, I had the daily sight of her, like food or air she was there, like a mother. I say “college,” but I feel as if I cannot tell the difference between her leaving for college and our parting forever — I try to see this apartment without her, without her pure depth of feeling, without her creek-brown hair, her daedal hands with their tapered fingers, her pupils brown as the mourning cloak's wing, but I can't. Seventeen years ago, in this room, she moved inside me, I looked at the river, I could not imagine my life with her. I gazed across the street, And saw, in the icy winter sun, a column of steam rush up away from the earth. There are creatures whose children float away at birth, and those who throat-feed their young for weeks and never see them again. My daughter is free and she is in me — no, my love of her is in me, moving in my heart, changing chambers, like something poured from hand to hand, to be weighed and then reweighed. I Would Live In Your Love By Sara Teasdale I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea, Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that recedes; I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me, I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul as it leads. A Peaceful Heart, What we need is here By Wendell Berry Geese appear high over us, pass, and the sky closes. Abandon, as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear in the ancient faith: what we need is here. And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here. #2 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti Driving a cardboard automobile without a license at the turn of the century my father ran into my mother on a fun-ride at Coney Island having spied each other eating in a French boardinghouse nearby And having decided right there and then that she was for him entirely he followed her into the playland of that evening where the headlong meeting of their ephemeral flesh on wheels hurtled them forever together And I now in the back seat of their eternity reaching out to embrace them "#2" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti from A Far Rockaway of the Heart. © New Directions, 1997. What lips my lips have kissed By Edna St Vincent Millay What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, I have forgotten, and what arms have lain Under my head till morning; but the rain Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh Upon the glass and listen for reply, And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain For unremembered lads that not again Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: I cannot say what loves have come and gone, I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more. Harlem Night Song by Langston Hughes Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. I love you. Across The Harlem roof-tops Moon is shining Night sky is blue. Stars are great drops Of golden dew. In the cabaret The jazz-band's playing. I love you. Come, Let us roam the night together Singing. I Happened to Be Standing by Mary Oliver I don't know where prayers go, or what they do. Do cats pray, while they sleep half-asleep in the sun? Does the opossum pray as it crosses the street? The sunflowers? The old black oak growing older every year? I know I can walk through the world, along the shore or under the trees, with my mind filled with things of little importance, in full self-attendance. A condition I can't really call being alive Is a prayer a gift, or a petition, or does it matter? The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way. Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not. While I was thinking this I happened to be standing just outside my door, with my notebook open, which is the way I begin every morning. Then a wren in the privet began to sing. He was positively drenched in enthusiasm, I don't know why. And yet, why not. I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe or whatever you don't. That's your business. But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be if it isn't a prayer? So I just listened, my pen in the air. Adage by Billy Collins When it’s late at night and branches are banging against the windows, you might think that love is just a matter of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself into the fire of someone else, but it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s more like trading the two birds who might be hiding in that bush for the one you are not holding in your hand. A wise man once said that love was like forcing a horse to drink but then everyone stopped thinking of him as wise. Let us be clear about something. Love is not as simple as getting up on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor’s clothes. No, it’s more like the way the pen feels after it has defeated the sword. It’s a little like the penny saved or the nine dropped stitches. You look at me through the halo of the last candle and tell me love is an ill wind that has no turning, a road that blows no good, but I am here to remind you, as our shadows tremble on the walls, that love is the early bird who is better late than never. "Adage" by Billy Collins from Aimless Love. © Random House, 2013. Reprinted with permission The Guest Patricia Fargnoli In the long July evenings, the French woman who came to stay every summer for two weeks at my aunt’s inn would row my brother and me out to the middle of the mile-wide lake so that the three of us would be surrounded by the wild extravagance of reds that had transformed both lake and sky into fire. It was the summer after our mother died. I remember the dipping sound of the oars and the sweet music of our voices as she led us in the songs she had taught us to love. “Blue Moon.” “Deep Purple." We sang as she rowed, not ever wondering where she came from or why she was alone, happy that she was willing to row us out into all that beauty. Crossing the Bar by Alfred Tennyson Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home. Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark; For though from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar. "Crossing the Bar" by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Public Domain. Three Gratitudes By Carrie Newcomer Every night before I go to sleep I say out loud Three things that I'm grateful for, All the significant, insignificant Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life. It's a small practice and humble, And yet, I find I sleep better Holding what lightens and softens my life Ever so briefly at the end of the day. Sunlight, and blueberries, Good dogs and wool socks, A fine rain, A good friend, Fresh basil and wild phlox, My father's good health, My daughter's new job, The song that always makes me cry, Always at the same part, No matter how many times I hear it. Decent coffee at the airport, And your quiet breathing, The stories you told me, The frost patterns on the windows, English horns and banjos, Wood Thrush and June bugs, The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond, An old coat, A new poem, My library card, And that my car keeps running Despite all the miles. And after three things, More often than not, I get on a roll and I just keep on going, I keep naming and listing, Until I lie grinning, Blankets pulled up to my chin, Awash with wonder At the sweetness of it all.