I feel my job as an artist is to disturb the peace. And to disturb it intellectually, linguistically, politically and literally.
By Gerald Stern
Me trying to understand say whence
say whither, say what, say me with a pencil walking,
say reading the dictionary, say learning medieval
Latin, reading Spengler, reading Whitehead,
William James I loved him, swimming breaststroke
and thinking for an hour, how did I get here?
Or thinking in line, say the 69 streetcar
or 68 or 67 Swissvale,
that would take me elsewhere, me with a textbook
reading the pre-Socratics, so badly written,
whoever the author was, me on the floor of
the lighted stacks sitting cross-legged,
walking afterwards through the park or sometimes
running across the bridges and up the hills,
sitting down in our tiny dining room,
burning in a certain way, still burning.
Someone commented the other day, “do you think summer will ever feel as free again?” The comment was in relation to how our lives have changed due to the pandemic and what were formerly foundations of our summertime experiences, like outdoor music festivals, BBQ contests, baseball games, the State Fair, have shifted from sheer enjoyment to something more akin to risks to be managed. I miss the silliness that is people watching out in the world and how the lives of strangers momentarily collide. Too often today the dance that is the choreography of my day is now a solo rather than an easy summertime waltz with others.
by Edwin Denby
Cool June day, up the avenue An oldster in a boater steps Jaunty, at the cross-street, light green Steps out, truck turns in on him, he stops Truck halts, the driver don’t crowd him Midwest highschool kids of his own He’s spotted the gait, gives pop time Lets them honk, soberly waves him on Old man couldn’t move; a PR Touched the arm, smiled, walked him across He took up a stride like before Traffic regained momentum lost Irish like the President’s dad We watched him swallowed by the crowd
Some rumour also of some strange adventures . . Had gone before him, and his wars and loves; And as romantic heads are pretty painters, . . And, above all, an Englishwoman’s roves Into the excursive, breaking the indentures . . Of sober reason, wheresoe’er it moves, He found himself extremely in the fashion, Which serves our thinking people for a passion.
I don’t mean that they are passionless, but quite . . The contrary; but then ’tis in the head; Yet as the consequences are as bright . . As if they acted with the heart instead, What after all can signify the site Of ladies’ lucubrations? So they lead . . In safety to the place for which you start, What matters if the road be head or heart?
Lothario Swings at Jazz Fest
by T. A. Fry
A night in June unwavering Clear soulful music rise! Consorts slowly savoring The softness of tan thighs
An encore for an instant Beer scents a shameless sigh The night is slowly distant As the sax’s hunger cries
The shimmering summer solstice Casts spells in lover’s eyes Placing trust on notice Where reticence resides
Lust glides on twilight’s kisses Quivering quietly with folly’s need Loneliness swings and misses As Lothario goes to seed
Pain is filtered in a poem so that it becomes finally, in the end, pleasure.
by Mark Strand
There is a girl you like so you tell her your penis is big, but that you cannot get yourself to use it. Its demands are ridiculous, you say, even self-defeating, but to be honored, somehow, briefly, inconspicuously in the dark.
When she closes her eyes in horror, you take it all back. You tell her you’re almost a girl yourself and can understand why she is shocked. When she is about to walk away, you tell her you have no penis, that you don’t
know what got into you. You get on your knees. She suddenly bends down to kiss your shoulder and you know you’re on the right track. You tell her you want to bear children and that is why you seem confused. You wrinkle your brow and curse the day you were born.
She tries to calm you, but you lose control. You reach for her panties and beg forgiveness as you do. She squirms and you howl like a wolf. Your craving seems monumental. You know you will have her. Taken by storm, she is the girl you will marry.
Keeping Things Whole
by Mark Strand
In a field I am the absence of field. This is always the case. Wherever I am I am what is missing.
When I walk I part the air and always the air moves in to fill the spaces where my body’s been.
We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole
There are lines of yours I know by heart. There are scents of yours soaked in my skin.
praise poets and their pens
praise daily poems in my inbox how they make me laugh in one stanza, then break my heart the next praise how poets hold onto our first loves, and scent of mama, now gone praise how we nurture our child self, gently wrap her around stanzas, baby girl is resilient praise our spunk and our sadness, let our writing heal at home, at work, in cafés, even in the ICU praise how we hold our memories up to light, gentle and cupped in palm of hands praise our rough and sexy poems, sometimes that’s all we need fiyah in the sheets praise bebop and jazz how my foot taps when i speak your poems out loud praise power of music and mama who played Nancy Wilson all night long, crying behind a closed door. praise how i wrote a new poem this week, while my sick child laid on my lap, because everyone needs to heal, especially mamas.
by Marilyn Hacker
Epithalamion? Not too long back I was being ironic about “wives.” It’s very well to say, creation thrives on contradiction, but that’s a fast track shifted precipitately into. Tacky, some might say, and look mildly appalled. On the whole, it’s one I’m likely to be called on. Explain yourself or face the music, Hack. No law books frame terms of this covenant. It’s choice that’s asymptotic to a goal, which means that we must choose, and choose, and choose momently, daily. This moment my whole trajectory’s toward you, and it’s not losing momentum. Call it anything we want.
It’s time to make love, douse the glim; The fireflies twinkle and dim; The stars lean together Like birds of a feather, And the loin lies down with the limb.
The Old Age of Nostalgia
by Mark Strand
Those hours given over to basking in the glow of an imagined future, of being carried away in streams of promise by a love or a passion so strong that one felt altered forever and convinced that the smallest particle of the surrounding world was charged with a purpose of impossible grandeur; ah yes, and one would look up into the trees and be thrilled by the wind-loosened river of pale and gold foliage cascading down and by the high melodious singing of countless birds; those moments, so many and so long ago, still come back, but briefly, like fireflies in the perfumed heat of a summer night.
The spectacle of the June firefly light show in our yard is at its stunning zenith. 2022 is a spectacular crop after a dry year last year, the full wetlands that surround our house and tall grasses have brought forth a breath taking wonder. I have always been amazed by the magic of fireflies. They are the fireworks of the insect world. They attract their mates by the power of their greenish glow and signal to the world that life is amazing.
When my kids were young I would take them fire fly hunting with a repurposed sweep net and a canning jar. My rule is that they could keep them on their night stand for one night, with some delicious grass to eat, but in the morning they had to let them go, that magic too powerful to keep in a jar to die.
When was the last time you chased a fire fly down or sat and watched them shimmer in the dark night, suffering a few bites of mosquitoes for the pleasure of their company?
So You Say
by Mark Strand
It is all in the mind, you say, and has nothing to do with happiness. The coming of cold, the coming of heat, the mind has all the time in the world. You take my arm and say something will happen, something unusual for which we were always prepared, like the sun arriving after a day in Asia, like the moon departing after a night with us.
I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.
by Joyce Kilmer
When Dawn strides out to wake a dewy farm Across green fields and yellow hills of hay The little twittering birds laugh in his way And poise triumphant on his shining arm. He bears a sword of flame but not to harm The wakened life that feels his quickening sway And barnyard voices shrilling “It is day!” Take by his grace a new and alien charm.
But in the city, like a wounded thing That limps to cover from the angry chase, He steals down streets where sickly arc-lights sing, And wanly mock his young and shameful face; And tiny gongs with cruel fervor ring In many a high and dreary sleeping place.
(For Sara Teasdale)
by Joyce Kilmer
The lonely farm, the crowded street, The palace and the slum, Give welcome to my silent feet As, bearing gifts, I come.
Last night a beggar crouched alone, A ragged helpless thing; I set him on a moonbeam throne — Today he is a king.
Last night a king in orb and crown Held court with splendid cheer; Today he tears his purple gown And moans and shrieks in fear.
Not iron bars, nor flashing spears, Not land, nor sky, nor sea, Nor love’s artillery of tears Can keep mine own from me.
Serene, unchanging, ever fair, I smile with secret mirth And in a net of mine own hair I swing the captive earth.
If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they would immediately go out.
Bed in Summer
By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer, quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see The birds still hopping on the tree, Or hear the grown-up people’s feet Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day?
by Lucille Clifton
whatever slid into my mother’s room that late june night, tapping her great belly, summoned me out roundheaded and unsmiling. is this the moon, my father used to grin. cradling me? it was the moon but nobody knew it then.
the moon understands dark places. the moon has secrets of her own. she holds what light she can.
we girls were ten years old and giggling in our hand-me-downs. we wanted breasts, pretended that we had them, tissued our undershirts. jay johnson is teaching me to french kiss, ella bragged, who is teaching you? how do you say; my father?
the moon is queen of everything. she rules the oceans, rivers, rain. when I am asked whose tears these are I always blame the moon.
The English have contributed much to their own misfortunes, for they first taught the Indians the use of arms.The government of the Massachusetts … upon design to monopolize the whole Indian trade … [gave] liberty … to sell, unto any Indian, guns, swords, powder, and shot.By which means the Indians have been abundantly furnished with great store of arms and ammunition.
Randolph, Report on King Phillip’s War in New England.
by Robert Lowell
Ten thousand Fords are idle here in search Of a tradition. Over these dry sticks— The Minute Man, the Irish Catholics, The ruined bridge and Walden’s fished out perch— The belfry of the Unitarian Church Rings out the hanging Jesus. Crucifix, How can your whited spindling arms transfix Mammon’s unbridled industry, the lurch For forms to harness Heraclitus stream! This Church is Concord—Concord where Thoreau Named all the birds without a gun to probe Through darkness to the painted man and bow: The death-dance of King Philip and his scream Whose echo girdled this imperfect globe.
Lowell enjoys weaving history into his poetry. I think he felt it elevated it to a higher standard of literature. The war of 1676 is not on the minds of American’s these days, but it is an earlier version of the kind of tyranny and proxy wars that plague the world today. Considered one of the bloodiest and costliest wars per capita ever fought on what would become American soil, it was fought primarily between first nations, with English militias and colonists using it to its advantage to weaken both sides permanently.
King Phillip, also known as Chief Metacom, was a member of the Wampanoag tribe native to what would become New England. It was a 14 month war that escalated because of the involvement and incursions of colonists that took advantage of the situation.
In the spring of 1676 King Phillip’s alliances had the upper hand and captured Chief Canochet. He was handed over to the Mohegans who promptly shot, beheaded and quartered him, leaving the Narragnsett without a leader. But as often happens in war, the tide turned, largely because of the backing of English militias. On August 20, 1676, an English-Indian soldier named John Alderman, shot and killed King Philip at Mount Hope. King Philip was treated the same as he had treated his enemy. King Philip’s head was placed on a spike and displayed at Plymouth colony for the next two decades as a warning to those that would resist England’s expansionism.
King Philip’s war resulted in thousands of native American’s death’s, ten’s of thousands wounded or captured and sold into slavery. The war decimated the Narragansett, Wampanoag and many other smaller tribes and for all practical purposes ended resistance in New England, paving the way for colonial expansionism.
A Fish Poem
by Leigh Hunt
Amazing monster! that, for aught I know, With the first sight of thee didst make our race For ever stare! O flat and shocking face, Grimly divided from the breast below! Thou that on dry land horribly dost go With a split body and most ridiculous pace, Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace, Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow!
O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air, How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry And dreary sloth? WHat particle canst share Of the only blessed life, the watery? I sometimes see of ye an actual pair Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.
Forgive us, O Lord, we acknowledge ourselves as type of the common man, Of the men and women who shut the door and sit by the fire; Who fear the blessing of God, the loneliness of the night of God, the surrender required, the deprivation inflicted; Who fear the injustice of men less than the justice of God: Who fear the hand at the window, the fire in the thatch, the fist in the tavern, the push into the canal, Less than we fear the love of God.
T. S. Eliot
Little Gidding (An Excerpt)
by T. S. Eliot
What we call the beginning is often the end And to make and end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. And every phrase And sentence that is right (where every word is at home, Taking its place to support the others, The word neither diffident nor ostentatious, An easy commerce of the old and the new, The common word exact without vulgarity, The formal word precise but not pedantic, The complete consort dancing together) Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, Every poem an epitaph. And any action Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start. We die with the dying: See, they depart, and we go with them. We are born with the dead: See, they return, and bring us with them. The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree Are of equal duration. A people without history Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time Through the unknown, unremembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always– A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one
Gerontion (An Excerpt)
by T. S. Eliot
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, Guides us by vanities. Think now She gives when our attention is distracted And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late What’s not believed in, or if still believed, In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last We have not reached conclusion, when I Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last I have not made this show purposelessly And it is not by any concitation Of the backward devils I would meet you upon this honestly. I that was near your heart was removed therefrom To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition. I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it Since what is kept must be adulterated? I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: How should I use them for your closer contact? These with a thousand small deliberations Protract the profit of their chilled delirium, Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled, With pungent sauces, multiply variety In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do, Suspend its operations, will the weevil Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn, White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims, And an old man driven by the Trades To a sleepy corner.
Tenants of the house, Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.