A Good Poetry

Rita Dove

If we really want to be full and generous in spirit, we have no choice but to trust at some level.

Rita Dove

Teach Us To Number Our Days

by Rita Dove

In the old neighborhood, each funeral parlor
is more elaborate than the last.
The alleys smell of cops, pistols bumping their thighs,
each chamber steeled with a slim blue bullet.

Low-rent balconies stacked to the sky.
A boy plays tic-tac-toe on a moon
crossed by TV antennae, dreams

he has swallowed a blue bean.
It takes root in his gut, sprouts
and twines upward, the vines curling
around the sockets and locking them shut.

And this sky, knotting like a dark tie?
The patroller, disinterested, holds all the beans.

The Secret Garden

by Rita Dove

I was ill, lying on my bed of old papers,
when you came with white rabbits in your arms;
and the doves scattered upwards, flying to mothers,
and the snails sighed under their baggage of stone . . .

Now your tongue grows like celery between us:
Because of our love-cries, cabbage darkens in its nest;
the cauliflower thinks of her pale, plump children
and turns greenish-white in a light like the ocean’s.

I was sick, fainting in the smell of teabags,
when you came with tomatoes, a good poetry.
I am being wooed. I am being conquered
by a cliff of limestone that leaves chalk on my breasts

Perhaps to Heal?

Mark Van Doren (1894 – 1972)

When it aims to express a love of the world it refuses to conceal the many reasons why the world is hard to love, though we must love it because we have no other, and to fail to love it is not to exist at all.

Mark Van Doren

He Loves Me

by Mark Van Doren

That God should love me is more wonderful
Than that I so imperfectly love him.
My reason is mortality, and dim
Senses; his–oh, insupportable–
Is that he sees me. Even when I pull
Dark thoughts about my head, each vein and limb
Delights him, though remembrance in him, grim
With my worst crimes, should prove me horrible.

And he has terrors that he can release.
But when he looks he loves me; which is why
I wonder; and my wonder must increase
Till more of it shall slay me. Yet I live,
I live; and he has never ceased to give
This glance at me that sweetens the whole sky.

As time goes on, and the number of posts build, I have a harder and harder time remembering what poems I have already posted and which I have not.  I was shocked when I realized I had not posted The Deepest Dream up until now.  I think it was because I had included it in a smaller project years ago and revisit the poem there from time to time.   It is one of my favorite sonnets.    Van Doren was not a particularly prolific poet, more professor, teacher, than writer in some ways.   He was not exactly a one hit wonder in a poetic sense, but close if such a thing exists.   If you are only going to be remembered for one poem, make it a good one, and perhaps, to heal!

The Deepest Dream

by Mark Van Doren

The deepest dream is of mad governors,
Down, down we feel it, till the very crust
Of the world cracks, and where there was no dust,
Atoms of ruin rise. Confusion stirs,
And fear; and all our thoughts–dark scavengers–
Feed on the center’s refuse. Hope is thrust
Like wind away, and love sinks into lust
For merest safety, meanest of levelers.

And then we wake. Or do we? Sleep endures
More than the morning can, when shadows lie
Sharper than mountains, and the cleft is real
Between us and our kings. What sun assures
Our courage, and what evening by and by
Descends to rest us, and perhaps to heal?

It Happens In The Imagination

Robert Pinksy

Deciding to remember, and what to remember, is how we decide who we are.

Robert Pinsky

An Explantion of America: A Love of Death (An Excerpt)

by Robert Pinsky
The obliterating strangeness and the spaces
Are as hard to imagine as the love of death …
Which is the love of an entire strangeness,
The contagious blankness of a quiet plain.
Imagine that a man, who had seen a prairie,
Should write a poem about a Dark or Shadow
That seemed to be both his, and the prairie’s—as if
The shadow proved that he was not a man,
But something that lived in quiet, like the grass.
Imagine that the man who writes that poem,
Stunned by the loneliness of that wide pelt,
Should prove to himself that he was like a shadow
Or like an animal living in the dark.
In the dark proof he finds in his poem, the man
Might come to think of himself as the very prairie,
The sod itself, not lonely, and immune to death.
None of this happens precisely as I try
To imagine that it does, in the empty plains,
And yet it happens in the imagination
Of part of the country: not in any place
More than another, on the map, but rather
Like a place, where you and I have never been
And need to try to imagine—place like a prairie
Where immigrants, in the obliterating strangeness,
Thirst for the wide contagion of the shadow
Or prairie—where you and I, with our other ways,
More like the cities or the hills or trees,
Less like the clear blank spaces with their potential,
Are like strangers in a place we must imagine.

Robert Pinsky was the Poet Laureate during Bill Clinton’s second term, a public position that was somewhat ill suited to his quiet nature.    However, change is good, even for old poets, and it offered him the opportunity to spearhead some unique projects, one of which was My Favorite Poem for the Library of Congress.   Originally intended to be only 100 poems, being a poet with a panel of poets,  they changed the rules because there were too many good ones and “the list” became 180.  People from all over the country and backgrounds submitted entries and those that were selected were recorded as well.  I am disappointed to report there were scant few sonnets, and of those included, I was not a fan.   However, I am happy to report there are a lot of other great poems.   If you’re looking for an eclectic free anthology on-line, check it out.  Thank you Robert!

The Poet

by Robert Pinksy

Loses his position on worksheet or page in textbook
May speak much but makes little sense
Cannot give clear verbal instructions
Does not understand what he reads
Does not understand what he hears
Cannot handle “yes-no” questions

Has great difficulty interpreting proverbs
Has difficulty recalling what he ate for breakfast, etc.
Cannot tell a story from a picture
Cannot recognize visual absurdities

Has difficulty classifying and categorizing objects
Has difficulty retaining such things as
addition and subtraction facts, or multiplication tables
May recognize a word one day and not the next

You Just Can’t Trust It’s Spring

We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.

John Dryden


by Henry Allen

Good Friday, dogwood petals cruciform,
the windblown light, the rain that drifts like dust,
the naked river lit by thunderstorm,
the mud, the pollen. Still, you just can’t trust
it’s spring. Then April squalor comes your way,
the blessed chaos of a puberty
that brings deflowerings to bloom some day.
How sad, how glad, this springtime destiny.
You fall in love and everything is changed,
the very light itself, the taste of air,
the world’s a plot, your very own, deranged
but wildly true, at least while love is there.
To be in England, Paris … poets’ dreams …
while fallen petals flee down noisy streams.

Calm Was The Even (Excerpt from An Evening’s Love)

By John Dryden

Calm was the even, and clear was the sky,
      And the new budding flowers did spring,
When all alone went Amyntas and I
      To hear the sweet nightingale sing;
I sate, and he laid him down by me;
      But scarcely his breath he could draw;
For when with a fear, he began to draw near,
      He was dash’d with A ha ha ha ha!
He blush’d to himself, and lay still for a while,
      And his modesty curb’d his desire;
But straight I convinc’d all his fear with a smile,
      Which added new flames to his fire.
O Silvia, said he, you are cruel,
      To keep your poor lover in awe;
Then once more he press’d with his hand to my breast,
      But was dash’d with A ha ha ha ha!
I knew ’twas his passion that caus’d all his fear;
      And therefore I pitied his case:
I whisper’d him softly, there’s nobody near,
      And laid my cheek close to his face:
But as he grew bolder and bolder,
      A shepherd came by us and saw;
And just as our bliss we began with a kiss,
      He laugh’d out with A ha ha ha ha!

April and Snow

From 90 to 28 degrees in 48 hours. Welcome to Minnesota in April!

For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.

Amy Lowell

April Snow

by Matthew Zapruder

Today in El Paso all the planes are asleep on the runway. The world
is in a delay. All the political consultants drinking whiskey keep
their heads down, lifting them only to look at the beautiful scarred
waitress who wears typewriter keys as a necklace. They jingle
when she brings them drinks. Outside the giant plate glass windows
the planes are completely covered in snow, it piles up on the wings.
I feel like a mountain of cell phone chargers. Each of the various
faiths of our various fathers keeps us only partly protected. I don’t
want to talk on the phone to an angel. At night before I go to sleep
I am already dreaming. Of coffee, of ancient generals, of the faces
of statues each of which has the eternal expression of one of my feelings.
I examine my feelings without feeling anything. I ride my blue bike
on the edge of the desert. I am president of this glass of water.

If you google poem, April snow, you will find a multitude of poets who took up pen at the indignation.  There is something profound about an April snow, the tenacity with which winter lingers, while our thoughts have already turned to green and growing things.  Weather does not often align with our thoughts.  I can be absolutely black on the bluest of blue sky days.  I checked all my fruit trees this week when it was over 80 degrees for four days in a row.   It looks like all survived both fauna and frost, patiently preparing for a bit more warmth to break out in bloom.  


Snow in April

by Amy Lowell
Smooth blue skies,
Fresh winds through early tree-tops,
Pointed shoots,
White bells,
White and purple cups.
I am a plum-tree
Checked at its flowering.
My blossoms wither,
My branches grow brittle again.
I stretch them out and up,
But the snowflakes fall—
Whirl—and fall.
April and snow,
And my heart stuffed and suffocating
With my blossoms brown and dropping
Upon my cold roots.

Can Trouble Live With April Days?

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last-far off-at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Oh Beauty Passing

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Oh, Beauty, passing beauty! sweetest Sweet!
How canst thou let me waste my youth in sighs?
I only ask to sit beside thy feet.
Thou knowest I dare not look into thine eyes,
Might I but kiss thy hand! I dare not fold
My arms about thee ­ scarcely dare to speak.
And nothing seems to me so wild and bold,
As with one kiss to touch thy blessed cheek.
Methinks if I should kiss thee, no control
Within the thrilling brain could keep afloat
The subtle spirit. Even while I spoke,
The bare word KISS hath made my inner soul
To tremble like a lutestring, ere the note
Hath melted in the silence that it broke.



by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Dip down upon the northern shore,
O sweet new-year, delaying long;
Thou doest expectant Nature wrong,
Delaying long, delay no more.


What stays thee from the clouded noons,
Thy sweetness from its proper place?
Can trouble live with April days,
Or sadness in the summer moons?

Bring orchis, bring the fox-glove spire,
The little speedwell’s darling blue,
Deep tulips dashed with fiery dew,
Laburnums, dropping-wells of fire.

O thou, new-year, delaying long,
Delayest the sorrow in my blood,
That longs to burst a frozen bud,
And flood a fresher throat with song.

I Am Silver and Exact

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.

Sylvia Path


by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Sonnet:  To Eva

by Sylvia Plath

All right, let’s say you could take a skull and break it
The way you’d crack a clock; you’d crush the bone
Between steel palms of inclination, take it,
Observing the wreck of metal and rare stone.

This was a woman : her loves and stratagems
Betrayed in mute geometry of broken
Cogs and disks, inane mechanic whims,
And idle coils of jargon yet unspoken.

Not man nor demigod could put together
The scraps of rusted reverie, the wheels
Of notched tin platitudes concerning weather,
Perfume, politics, and fixed ideals.

The idiot bird leaps up and drunken leans
To chirp the hour in lunatic thirteens.

Let Me Be Wafted

Easter Bunny photo at Walt Whitman Shop

Happiness, not in another place but in this place, …. not in another hour but this hour.

Walt Whitman

Holy Sonnets:  Oh, To Vex Me

By John Donne

Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one:
Inconstancy unnaturally hath begot
A constant habit; that when I would not
I change in vows, and in devotion.
As humorous is my contrition
As my profane love, and as soon forgot:
As riddlingly distempered, cold and hot,
As praying, as mute; as infinite, as none.
I durst not view heaven yesterday; and today
In prayers and flattering speeches I court God:
Tomorrow I quake with true fear of his rod.
So my devout fits come and go away
Like a fantastic ague; save that here
Those are my best days, when I shake with fear


The Last Invocation

by Walt Whitman

AT the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful fortress’d house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-
closed doors,
Let me be wafted.

Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors O soul.

Tenderly—be not impatient,
(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,
Strong is your hold O love.)


Meaning Can Spring Out of Nothing

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Sylvia Plath

A (halo) of sonnets for Sylvia Plath (An Excerpt)

by Conny Borgelioen


Foreign as crutches on a wedding cake
— how do we admit, how do we face,
our own selves wrapped neatly in a paper?
Once we release ourselves from all the frill
and froth, does it still matter greatly how
we eat our cake? This one’s superior
position is negated. In short, he
does not exist and all this glitter is
hurting our eyes. Lower them now
like the heavy clouds. So, I have said it.
The sea will touch the sand because peace is
our birthright, and his stories I don’t like.
I shun them to keep them from possessing
me. I no longer subscribe to a saint.

Today’s Fourteenlines is a shout out to a fellow sonneeter.   Conny Borgelioen’s sonnets are crisp with experience while not overly controlled.  I stumbled across her poetry one day while having my morning coffee.   Having lived with someone who also faces a life-long disability, I can appreciate the courage it takes for her to persevere and keep being creative.  Check it out and if you like what you find, buy her a cup of coffee.


Our saintly subscription longs for the gray,
the game of tussle between soil and sky.
Have no fear when the godly head lowers,
just like the seagulls, low, skimming sand hills
planted with tough weeds, sweeping forward like
ice skaters, bent over, forming a green
counterpart to our angry mother sea.
All parts of us have learned to run
to the house with the doors that fold
back and open out upon… upon…
the center. I believe along the fold
is where everything resides in so far
that meaning can spring out of nothing. Off
balance, we scramble, ever concealing.

You Hungry Thing

Ron Padgett

The writing of poems and the living of life seem to requiring pay hard attention to any and everything, and experiencing a kind of mental orgasm…

Ron Padgett

The Love Cook

By Ron Padgett
Let me cook you some dinner.   
Sit down and take off your shoes   
and socks and in fact the rest   
of your clothes, have a daquiri,   
turn on some music and dance   
around the house, inside and out,   
it’s night and the neighbors   
are sleeping, those dolts, and   
the stars are shining bright,   
and I’ve got the burners lit   
for you, you hungry thing.

My partner teaches fifth grade.  One of the things she attempts to impart to her students who are lucky enough to spend a year with her is that perfection is impossible.   She tries to help young people who are often obsessed with the idea of perfection that there is a healthier measure of yourself and others.  Her message is we are all beautifully imperfect and acceptance of our own imperfection is the key to happiness in accepting ourselves and other’s.  Since perfect is a banned word in our house, I found Padgett’s poem below wonderfully on point in his off beat humor and sage advice.  None of us are perfect, but we can all take a tiny step towards accepting our imperfection by reading Padgett.   Enjoy.

How to Be Perfect

By Ron Padgett

 Everything is perfect, dear friend.

Get some sleep.
Don’t give advice.
Take care of your teeth and gums.
Don’t be afraid of anything beyond your control. Don’t be afraid, for
instance, that the building will collapse as you sleep, or that someone
you love will suddenly drop dead.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Raise your pulse rate to 120 beats per minute for 20 straight minutes
four or five times a week doing anything you enjoy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Know that the desire to be perfect is probably the veiled expression
of another desire—to be loved, perhaps, or not to die.
Make eye contact with a tree.
Be skeptical about all opinions, but try to see some value in each of
Dress in a way that pleases both you and those around you.
Do not speak quickly.
Learn something every day. (Dzien dobre!)
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass ball
Be loyal.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Design your activities so that they show a pleasing balance
and variety.
Be kind to old people, even when they are obnoxious. When you
become old, be kind to young people. Do not throw your cane at
them when they call you Grandpa. They are your grandchildren!
Live with an animal.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
If you need help, ask for it.
Cultivate good posture until it becomes natural.
If someone murders your child, get a shotgun and blow his head off.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if you
have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.
Do not waste money you could be giving to those who need it.
Expect society to be defective. Then weep when you find that it is far
more defective than you imagined.
When you borrow something, return it in an even better condition.
As much as possible, use wooden objects instead of plastic or metal
Look at that bird over there.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Calm down.
Visit foreign countries, except those whose inhabitants have
expressed a desire to kill you.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want to.
Meditate on the spiritual. Then go a little further, if you feel like it.
What is out (in) there?
Sing, every once in a while.
Be on time, but if you are late do not give a detailed and lengthy
Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.
Walk upstairs.
Do not practice cannibalism.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.
Take your phone off the hook at least twice a week.
Keep your windows clean.
Extirpate all traces of personal ambitiousness.
Don’t use the word extirpate too often.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not possible, go
to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Grow something.
Do not wander through train stations muttering, “We’re all going to
Count among your true friends people of various stations of life.
Appreciate simple pleasures, such as the pleasure of chewing, the
pleasure of warm water running down your back, the pleasure of a
cool breeze, the pleasure of falling asleep.
Do not exclaim, “Isn’t technology wonderful!”
Learn how to stretch your muscles. Stretch them every day.
Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel even
older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put it in cold water immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for twenty
minutes. You will be surprised by the curative powers of coldness and
Learn how to whistle at earsplitting volume.
Be calm in a crisis. The more critical the situation, the calmer you
should be.
Enjoy sex, but don’t become obsessed with it. Except for brief periods
in your adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age.
Contemplate everything’s opposite.
If you’re struck with the fear that you’ve swum out too far in the
ocean, turn around and go back to the lifeboat.
Keep your childish self alive.
Answer letters promptly. Use attractive stamps, like the one with a
tornado on it.
Cry every once in a while, but only when alone. Then appreciate
how much better you feel. Don’t be embarrassed about feeling better.
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the
street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped
in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.
Be good.
Walk down different streets.
Remember beauty, which exists, and truth, which does not. Notice
that the idea of truth is just as powerful as the idea of beauty.
Stay out of jail.
In later life, become a mystic.
Use Colgate toothpaste in the new Tartar Control formula.
Visit friends and acquaintances in the hospital. When you feel it is
time to leave, do so.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.
Read and reread great books.
Dig a hole with a shovel.
In winter, before you go to bed, humidify your bedroom.
Know that the only perfect things are a 300 game in bowling and a
27-batter, 27-out game in baseball.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to drink,
say, “Water, please.”
Ask “Where is the loo?” but not “Where can I urinate?”
Be kind to physical objects.
Beginning at age forty, get a complete “physical” every few years
from a doctor you trust and feel comfortable with.
Don’t read the newspaper more than once a year.
Learn how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “chopsticks”
in Mandarin.
Belch and fart, but quietly.
Be especially cordial to foreigners.
See shadow puppet plays and imagine that you are one of the
characters. Or all of them.
Take out the trash.
Love life.
Use exact change.
When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.