So here are all the poems I posted in the last couple of months. Again, they’re arranged alphabetically by author.
- My First Poem For You by Kim Addonizio
- You Don’t Know What Love Is by Kim Addonizio
- A Sad Child by Margaret Atwood
- Shapechangers in Winter by Margaret Atwood
- Variations on the Word Love by Margaret Atwood
- Variations on the Word Sleep by Margaret Atwood
- Cascando by Samuel Beckett
- One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
- Sonnet XIV by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Sonnet XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Seven Years Later, Driving Home by Justine U. Camacho
- Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
- Disappear by Conchitina Cruz
- Morning by Conchitina Cruz
- Anyone Lived In a Pretty How Town by E.E. Cummings
- I Carry Your Heart With Me by E.E. Cummings
- L(a by E.E. Cummings
- Silently If, Out of Not Knowable by E.E. Cummings
- Since Feeling is First by E.E. Cummings
- Somewhere I Have Never Traveled by E.E. Cummings
- You Being in Love by E.E. Cummings
- The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot
- The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
- Dark Sonnet by Neil Gaiman
- The Day the Saucers Came by Neil Gaiman
- Arboretum by Louise Gluck
- The Untrustworthy Speaker by Louise Gluck
- 27 by Nerisa del Carmen Guevara
- Having it Out With Melancholy by Jane Kenyon
- A Letter to Claire Danes From a Fan in Manila by R. Zamora Linmark
- Slippery When English by R. Zamora Linmark
- The Muse This Time by R. Zamora Linmark
- Yours, Etcetera by Paolo Manalo
- Room by Rod McKuen
- The Need (Thirty-Six) by Rod McKuen
- Hyacinth by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- Very Like a Whale by Ogden Nash
- I Do Not Love You by Pablo Neruda
- I Like For You to Be Still by Pablo Neruda
- If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda
- Tonight I Can Write by Pablo Neruda
- Elm by Sylvia Plath
- What a Thing is Made Of by Isabelita O. Reyes
- Till Death Do Us (Or The Uses of Cliches) by Isabelita O. Reyes
- Love Song by Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Eighth Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Ninth Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Second Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke
- You Darkness by Rainer Maria Rilke
- You Who Never Arrived by Rainer Maria Rilke
- Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) by Anne Sexton
- Cinderella by Anne Sexton
- Lessons in Hunger by Anne Sexton
- Live by Anne Sexton
- For My Lover Returning to His Wife by Anne Sexton
- The Frog Prince by Anne Sexton
- Wanting to Die by Anne Sexton
- Sonnet CXVI by William Shakespeare
- Comes the Dawn by Virginia Shopstall (sometimes called After a While and credited to Veronica Shoffstall. Sorry, can’t seem to figure out which one’s the original.)
- Reclamation by Angelo Suarez
- Because I Don’t Know by May Swenson
- The Key to Everything by May Swenson
- Drinking Wine by Wislawa Szymborska
- Love at First Sight by Wislawa Szymborska
- Advice to a Girl by Sara Teasdale
- True Love by Judith Viorst
- Love After Love by Derek Walcott
- Dance Russe by William Carlos Williams
- This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams
- Knives by Jane Yolen
Also, because I wasn’t able to reply their comments immediately and I know it seems rude but I honestly just didn’t know what to say but anyway, to Issy Reyes and Paolo Manalo: Thank you for visiting and thank you for your poetry.
[Wow, last favorite poem post. Anyway, so this is another fairy tale poem, based on the Cinderella story.]
Love can be sharp
as the point of a knife,
as piercing as a sliver of glass,
My sisters did not know this.
They thought love was an old slipper:
pull it on and it fits.
They did not know this secret of the world:
the wrong word can kill.
It cost them their lives.
Princes understand the world,
they know the nuance of the tongue,
they are bred up in it.
A shoe is not a shoe:
it implies miles, it suggests length,
it measures and makes solid.
It wears and is worn.
Where there is one shoe, there must be a match.
Otherwise the kingdom limps along.
Glass is not glass
in the language of love:
it implies sight, it suggests depth,
it mirrors and makes real,
it is sought and is seen.
What is made of glass reflects the gazer.
A queen must be made of glass.
I spoke to the prince in that secret tongue,
the diplomacy of courting,
he using shoes, I using glass,
and all my sisters saw was a slipper,
too long at the heel,
too short at the toe.
What else could they use but a knife?
What else could he see but the declaration of war?
Princes understand the world,
they know the nuance of the tongue,
they are bred up in it.
In war as in life, they take no prisoners
And they always marry the other shoe.
[I like this because it's simple and...I don't know...is cheeky the right term? In Filipino I could say it's patay-mali (transliteration: dead wrong. but it doesn't mean that exactly.) Haha, anyway, and I remember that time when someone ate the cake I was saving for dessert but whoever it was didn't own up to it so we joke around that it was the ghost in my house that stole it from the fridge and ate it. And no, I haven't seen said ghost and have no proof whatsoever of her (they say it's a her) existence.]
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
[Every time I read this, it's like watching a movie in my head which always puts a smile on my face.]
If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
[I found this in a novel called The Time Traveler's Wife written by Audrey Niffenegger. The novel itself is really...wonderful. You should read that too.]
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
[We can only wish for a love like this. haha.]
It is true love because
I put on eyeliner and a concerto and make pungent observations about the great issues of the day
Even when there’s no one here but him,
I do not resent watching the Green Bay Packers
Even though I am philosophically opposed to football.
When he is late for dinner an I know he must be either having an affair or lying dead in the middle of the street,
I always hope he’s dead.
It’s true love because
If he said quit drinking martinis but I kept drinking them and the next morning I couldn’t get out of bed,
He wouldn’t tell me he told me,
He is willing to wear unironed undershorts
Out of respect for the fact that I am philosophically opposed to ironing,
If his mother was drowning and I was drowning and he had to choose one of us to save,
He says he’d save me.
It’s true love because
When he went to San Francisco on business while I had to stay home with the painters and the exterminator and the baby who was getting the chicken pox,
He understood why I hated him,
When I said that playing the stock market was juvenile and irresponsible and then the stock I wouldn’t let him buy went up twenty-six points,
I understood why he hated me,
Despite cigarette cough, tooth decay, acid indigestion, dandruff, and other features of married life that tend to dampen the fires of passion,
We still feel something
We can call
[Wasn't able to post this yesterday because my PC was otherwise occupied. But anyway. 5 more poems to go and then, as I announced, my next countdown will be my favorite songs. Haha, this isn't much of an introduction. Anyway, I read this when I was in high school and let's just say it struck a chord.]
No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed;
Lay that on your heart,
My young angry dear;
This truth, this hard and precious stone,
Lay it on your hot cheek,
Let it hide your tear.
Hold it like a crystal
When you are alone
And gaze in the depths of the icy stone.
Long, look long and you will be blessed:
No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed.
[I fell in love with this poem while watching the Taiwanese film Turn Left Turn Right. I fell in love with the film too.]
Both are convinced
that a sudden surge of emotion bound them together.
Beautiful is such a certainty,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.
Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that nothing was happening between them.
What of streets, stairways and corridors
where they could have passed each other long ago?
I’d like to ask them
whether they remember–
Perhaps in a revolving door
ever being face to face?
An “excuse me” in a crowd?
A curt “wrong number” in the receiver?
But I know the answer:
No, they don’t remember.
They’d be greatly astonished to learn
that for a long time
Chance had been playing with them.
Not yet wholly ready
to transform into fate for them
it approached them, then backed off,
stood in their way,
and, suppressing a giggle,
jumped to the side.
There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?
There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
forgotten in waking.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
[I love the idea of this, of how we are often constructed through another's gaze. It's somewhat disturbing...and I love it exactly because it disturbs me. It also reminds me of a song I love: Mandalay's "Don't Invent Me." Check that out too.]
He looked at me, bestowing beauty,
and I took it for my own.
Happy, I swallowed a star.
I let him invent me
in the image of the reflection
in his eyes. I dance, I dance
in an abundance of sudden wings.
A table is a table, wine is wine
in a wineglass, which is a wineglass
and it stands standing on a table
but I am a phantasm,
a phantasm beyond belief,
a phantasm to the core.
I tell him what he wants to hear—
about ants dying of love
under a dandelion’s constellation.
I swear that sprinkled with wine
a white rose will sing.
I laugh, and tilt my head
carefully, as if I were testing
an invention. I dance, I dance
in astounded skin, in the embrace
that creates me.
Eve from a rib, Venus from sea foam,
Minerva from the head of Jove
were much more real.
When he’s not looking at me,
I search for my reflection
on the wall. All I see
is a nail on which a painting hung.
[This is somewhat similar to Margaret Atwood's Variation on the Word Sleep. I just fell in love with this at first sight. And gosh, that ending. Sorry, I keep on posting sad poems but...well...what can you do.]
Is there anything I can do
or has everything been done
you prefer somebody else to do
it or don’t
you trust me to do
it right or is it hopeless and no one can do
a thing or do
you suppose I don’t
really want to do
it and am just saying that or don’t
you hear me at all or what?
the right person the doctor or
the nurse the father or
the mother or
the person with the name you keep
mumbling in your sleep
that no one ever heard of there’s no one
named that really
except yourself maybe
if I knew what your name was I’d
prove it’s your
own name spelled backwards or
twisted in some way the one you
keep mumbling but you
won’t tell me your
don’t you know it
yourself that’s it
of course you’ve
never quite knew it or
weren’t willing to believe it
Then there is something I
can do I
can find your name for you
that’s the key to everything once you’d
repeat it clearly you’d
come awake you’d
get up and walk knowing where you’re
going where you
after that or would you
no once you’d
get there you’d
remember and love me
of course I’d
be gone by then I’d
be far away
[I love this poem about love and infatuation. And I just love May Swenson.]
Because I don’t know you, I love you:
warm cheeks, full lips, rich smile,
dark irises that slide to the side,
thick lashes, thick hair, gleaming
teeth and eyes, your hand in greeting
warmer than mine, wider in blue shirt,
rolled sleeves, in dark jeans belted –
I liked your robust shoulders, wide neck and
tipped-up chin. That glow is blood
under skin that’s warm to begin with,
almost dusky, the red showing
through—of health, of youth—but more:
your open, welcome, I-could-hug-you look.
We met once or twice, exchanged smiles:
your lips curl-cornered to my thin,
crooked grin; your easy, laughing eyes
to my sharp star. Did it pierce you
there, my look of hunger, like a hook?
I wanted only a sniff, a tongue-tip’s
taste, a moment’s bath in your rare
warmth. That last night, trading
goodbyes, when we kissed—or you did, me—
my hand took your nape, plunged under
the thick spill of your hair. Then
I stepped into the dark, out of the light
of the party, the screen door’s yellow
square sliding smaller and smaller behind
me. You’ve become a dream of ripe
raspberries, in summer country: deep, dark
red lip, clean, gleaming generous smile.
Who owns you? I don’t know. I’ll hide you
away in my dream file. Stay there. Don’t
change. I don’t know you—and had better
no. Because I don’t know you, I love you.
[In this poem, Angelo Suarez says exactly what I feel about my country.]
“What sphinx of cement and aluminum
bashed open their skull and ate up
their brains and imagination?”
–Allen Ginsberg, from Howl
you do not own me
you do not own me
coconut country whose blood is concrete
whose eyes are replete with the sight of cement
twin eyelids of corrugated roof
whose skin is corrugated roof
scalp of corrugated roof whose hairs
are filaments of cement
whose nose sniffs cement
& the scent of we concrete
whose nape is replete with tenement homes
dreaming dollars disneyland daisies
dreaming gold mines in america
dreaming America where our people
are cardboard heroes refilling gas tanks
are heroes dying of starvation & shame
of watching their children become children
of domestic helpers domestic heroes
heroes that dry-clean american coats
that man limousines heroes that feed dying americans
their last dying meals osterized like gerber
changing their adult diapers
babies whose tongues
are tongues of cement
are tongues of steel
you do not own me
you do not own me
coconut country whose tv’s are owned by america
whose streets are paved with the golden feathers
of america’s favorite primetime bird
(what giant fists for eyes they have
he & his imaginary elephant friend)
coconut country whose semen is cement
you have been robbed of your legends
what happened to humadapnon gaki
labaw donggon the pagan warriors
whose coconut fists socked the eyes
out of demon sockets
fists that knocked the living daylights
out of demons out of natives
out of the imaginations of natives
whose lands were tilled by their own flaming hands
whose lands were walked upon
by bathala himself
you America whose hand whose throat
whose stomach is filled with the sap of my country
whose eyes are eyes that see
the pornography of my country
whose hands are hands are the hands
that milk my country of its semen & imagination
you America whose mouth has mesmerized
our men with myths of better lives
better planes & better tanks
you whose tales have replaced our tales
with tales of your own
you who own our hotdogs our hamburgers
you who own our tv’s & souls
bring us back our bamboo our children
bring us back our money our coconuts
bring us back our coconuts
and brown-skinned lumawig
will spare you your convenient caucasian lives
you do not own me
you do not own me
coconut country whose heart
is the size of an American fist
for centuries I had owned you
and I will get you get you
and I will get you back
[This is quite simple really, compared to the other poems in this list. And I just love the sentiment.]
After awhile you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession
and company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up
and your eyes ahead
with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much
so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
and you learn and you learn…with every goodbye you learn.
[My favorite sonnet by Shakespeare and the only poem I memorized by heart...because it's short...haha. but no, really, I love this.]
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
[I was thinking of adding Sylvia Plath's Lady Lazarus to the list but I kept thinking that I like this, a poem similar to it, better. So here it is. I just love the ending.]
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the most unnameable lust returns.
Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention
the furniture you have placed under the sun.
But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.
Twice I have so simply declared myself
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.
In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.
I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.
Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.
To thrust all that life under your tongue! –
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,
and yet she waits for me, year and year,
to so delicately undo an old would,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.
Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,
leaving the page of a book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.
[This is the last of my favorite poems from Anne Sexton's groundbreaking book Transformations.]
take out your contacts,
remove your wig.
I write for you.
But frogs come out
of the sky like rain.
With an ugly fury.
You are my judge.
You are my jury.
My guilts are what
I’ll take a knife
and chop up frog.
Frog has not nerves.
Frog is as old as a cockroach.
Frog is my father’s genitals.
Frog is a malformed doorknob.
Frog is a soft bag of green.
The moon will not have him.
The sun wants to shut off
like a light bulb.
At the sight of him
the stone washes itself in a tub.
The crow thinks he’s an apple
and drops a worm in.
At the feel of frog
the touch-me-nots explode
like electric slugs.
Slime will have him.
Slime has made him a house.
is at my bed.
He wants my sausage.
He wants my bread.
he wants my beer.
He wants my Christ
for a souvenir.
Frog has boil disease
and a bellyful of parasites.
He says: Kiss me. Kiss me.
And the ground soils itself.
should a certain
quite adorable princess
be walking in her garden
at such a time
and toss her golden ball
up like a bubble
and drop it into the well?
It was ordained.
Just as the fates deal out
the plague with a tarot card.
Just as the Supreme Being drills
holes in our skulls to let
the Boston Symphony through.
But I digress.
A loss has taken place.
The ball has sunk like a cast-iron pot
into the bottom of the well.
Lost, she said,
my moon, my butter calf,
my yellow moth, my Hindu hare.
Obviously it was more than a ball.
Balls such as these are not
for sale in Au Bon Marché.
I took the moon, she said,
between my teeth
and now it is gone
and I am lost forever.
A thief had robbed by day.
Suddenly the well grew
thick and boiling
and a frog appeared.
His eyes bulged like two peas
and his body was trussed into place.
Do not be afraid, Princess,
he said, I am not a vagabond,
a cattle farmer, a shepherd,
a doorkeeper, a postman
or a laborer.
I come to you as a tradesman.
I have something to sell.
Your ball, he said,
for just three things.
Let me eat from your plate.
Let me drink from your cup.
Let me sleep in your bed.
She thought, Old Waddler,
those three you will never do,
but she made the promises
with hopes for her ball once more.
He brought it up in his mouth
like a tricky old dog
and she ran back to the castle
leaving the frog quite alone.
That evening at dinner time
a knock was heard on the castle door
and a voice demanded:
King’s youngest daughter,
let me in. You promised;
now open to me.
I have left the skunk cabbage
and the eels to live with you.
The kind then heard her promise
and forced her to comply.
The frog first sat on her lap.
He was as awful as an undertaker.
Next he was at her plate
looking over her bacon
and calves’ liver.
We will eat in tandem,
he said gleefully.
Her fork trembled
as if a small machine
had entered her.
He sat upon the liver
and partook like a gourmet.
The princess choked
as if she were eating a puppy.
From her cup he drank.
It wasn’t exactly hygienic.
From her cup she drank
as if it were Socrates’ hemlock.
Next came the bed.
The silky royal bed.
Ah! The penultimate hour!
There was the pillow
with the princess breathing
and there was the sinuous frog
riding up and down beside her.
I have been lost in a river
of shut doors, he said,
and I have made my way over
the wet stones to live with you.
She woke up aghast.
I suffer for birds and fireflies
but not frogs, she said,
and threw him across the room.
Like a genie coming out of a samovar,
a handsome prince arose in the
corner of her bedroom.
He had kind eyes and hands
and was a friend of sorrow.
Thus they were married.
After all he had compromised her.
He hired a night watchman
so that no one could enter the chamber
and he had the well
boarded over so that
never again would she lose her ball,
that moon, that Krishna hair,
that blind poppy, that innocent globe,
that madonna womb.
[I just love this. Haha, sorry too busy to make a proper introduction.]
She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.
She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.
Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.
She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,
done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.
She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.
I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—
for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound
for the burying of her small red wound alive
for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother’s knee, for the stocking,
for the garter belt, for the call
the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.
She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.
As for me, I am watercolor.
I wash off.
[Well, all I can say is, this is good advice.]
Live or die, but don’t poison everything…
Well, death’s been here
for a long time –
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart’s doodle.
The chief ingredient
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody’s mother,
the damn bitch!
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed the body
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I play it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody’s doll.
Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don’t like to be told
that you’re sick
and then be forced
down with the hammer.
Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize –
and you realize she does this daily!
I’d known she was a purifier
but I hadn’t thought
she was solid,
hadn’t known she was an answer.
God! It’s a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchins,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I’m on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I’m ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.
thinking I was a killer,
anointing myself daily
with my little poisons.
I’m an empress.
I wear an apron.
My typewriter writes.
It didn’t break the way it warned.
Even crazy, I’m as nice
as a chocolate bar.
Even with the witches’ gymnastics
they trust my incalculable city,
my corruptible bed.
O dearest three,
I make a soft reply.
The witch comes on
and you paint her pink.
I come with kisses in my hood
and the sun, the smart one,
rolling in my arms.
So I say Live
and turn my shadow three times round
to feed our puppies as they come,
the eight Dalmatians we didn’t drown,
despite the warnings: The abort! The destroy!
Despite the pails of water that waited,
to drown them, to pull them down like stones,
they came, each one headfirst, blowing bubbles the color of cataract-blue
and fumbling for the tiny tits.
Just last week, eight Dalmatians,
3/4 of a lb., lined up like cord wood
I promise to love more if they come,
because in spite of cruelty
and the stuffed railroad cars for the ovens,
I am not what I expected. Not an Eichmann.
The poison just didn’t take.
So I won’t hang around in my hospital shift,
repeating The Black Mass and all of it.
I say Live, Live because of the sun,
the dream, the excitable gift.
[This just so reminds me of high school. haha.]
“Do you like me?”
I asked the blue blazer.
Silence bounced out of his books.
Silence feel off his tongue
and sat between us
and clogged my throat.
It slaughtered my trust.
It tore cigarettes out of my mouth.
We exchanged blind words,
and I did not cry,
and I did not beg,
but blackness filled my ears,
blackness lunged in my heart,
and something that had been good,
a sort of kindly oxygen,
turned into a gas oven.
Do you like me?
What’s a question like that?
What’s a silence like that?
And what am I hanging around for,
riddled with what his silence said?
[This is another poem from Transformations.]
You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son’s heart.
from diapers to Dior.
Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.
Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed
and she said to her daughter Cinderella:
Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile
down from heaven in the seam of a cloud.
The man took another wife who had
two daughters, pretty enough
but with hearts like blackjacks.
Cinderella was their maid.
She slept on the sooty hearth each night
and walked around looking like Al Jolson.
Her father brought presents home from town,
jewels and gowns for the other women
but the twig of a tree for Cinderella.
She planted that twig on her mother’s grave
and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove
would drop it like an egg upon the ground.
The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.
Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing
and gussying up for the event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils
into the cinders and said: Pick them
up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends;
all the warm wings of the fatherland came,
and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother,
you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That’s the way with stepmothers.
Cinderella went to the tree at the grave
and cried forth like a gospel singer:
Mama! Mama! My turtledove,
send me to the prince’s ball!
The bird dropped down a golden dress
and delicate little slippers.
Rather a large package for a simple bird.
So she went. Which is no surprise.
Her stepmother and sisters didn’t
recognize her without her cinder face
and the prince took her hand on the spot
and danced with no other the whole day.
As nightfall came she thought she’d better
get home. The prince walked her home
and she disappeared into the pigeon house
and although the prince took an axe and broke
it open she was gone. Back to her cinders.
These events repeated themselves for three days.
However on the third day the prince
covered the palace steps with cobbler’s wax
and Cinderella’s gold shoe stuck upon it.
Now he would find whom the shoe fit
and find his strange dancing girl for keeps.
He went to their house and the two sisters
were delighted because they had lovely feet.
The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on
but her big toe got in the way so she simply
sliced it off and put on the slipper.
The prince rode away with her until the white dove
told him to look at the blood pouring forth.
That is the way with amputations.
They just don’t heal up like a wish.
The other sister cut off her heel
but the blood told as blood will.
The prince was getting tired.
He began to feel like a shoe salesman.
But he gave it one last try.
This time Cinderella fit into the shoe
like a love letter into its envelope.
At the wedding ceremony
the two sisters came to curry favor
and the white dove pecked their eyes out.
Two hollow spots were left
like soup spoons.
Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
[Anne Sexton is my third favorite poet. Transformations is her collection of poetry based on fairy tales and these are not the happy fairy tales of our childhood but instead, more sinister and more violent. She transforms, among others, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Frog Prince, Cinderella and of course, Sleeping Beauty (or since it's based on the Grimm's version, Briar Rose.) This is perhaps the most disturbing of all of the poems in the collection, as you'll see if you read it below.]
a girl who keeps slipping off,
arms limp as old carrots,
into the hypnotist’s trance,
into a spirit world
speaking with the gift of tongues.
She is stuck in the time machine,
suddenly two years old sucking her thumb,
as inward as a snail,
learning to talk again.
She’s on a voyage.
She is swimming further and further back,
up like a salmon,
struggling into her mother’s pocketbook.
Little doll child,
come here to Papa.
Sit on my knee.
I have kisses for the back of your neck.
A penny for your thoughts, Princess.
I will hunt them like an emerald.
Come be my snooky
and I will give you a root.
That kind of voyage,
rank as a honeysuckle.
a king had a christening
for his daughter Briar Rose
and because he had only twelve gold plates
he asked only twelve fairies
to the grand event.
The thirteenth fairy,
her fingers as long and thing as straws,
her eyes burnt by cigarettes,
her uterus an empty teacup,
arrived with an evil gift.
She made this prophecy:
The princess shall prick herself
on a spinning wheel in her fifteenth year
and then fall down dead.
The court fell silent.
The king looked like Munch’s Scream
in times like those,
However the twelfth fairy
had a certain kind of eraser
and thus she mitigated the curse
changing that death
into a hundred-year sleep.
The king ordered every spinning wheel
exterminated and exorcised.
Briar Rose grew to be a goddess
and each night the king
bit the hem of her gown
to keep her safe.
He fastened the moon up
with a safety pin
to give her perpetual light
He forced every male in the court
to scour his tongue with Bab-o
lest they poison the air she dwelt in.
Thus she dwelt in his odor.
Rank as honeysuckle.
On her fifteenth birthday
she pricked her finger
on a charred spinning wheel
and the clocks stopped.
Yes indeed. She went to sleep.
The king and queen went to sleep,
the courtiers, the flies on the wall.
The fire in the hearth grew still
and the roast meat stopped crackling.
The trees turned into metal
and the dog became china.
They all lay in a trance,
each a catatonic
stuck in a time machine.
Even the frogs were zombies.
Only a bunch of briar roses grew
forming a great wall of tacks
around the castle.
tried to get through the brambles
for they had heard much of Briar Rose
but they had not scoured their tongues
so they were held by the thorns
and thus were crucified.
In due time
a hundred years passed
and a prince got through.
The briars parted as if for Moses
and the prince found the tableau intact.
He kissed Briar Rose
and she woke up crying:
Presto! She’s out of prison!
She married the prince
and all went well
except for the fear -
the fear of sleep.
was an insomniac…
She could not nap
or lie in sleep
without the court chemist
mixing her some knock-out drops
and never in the prince’s presence.
If it is to come, she said,
sleep must take me unawares
while I am laughing or dancing
so that I do not know that brutal place
where I lie down with cattle prods,
the hole in my cheek open.
Further, I must not dream
for when I do I see the table set
and a faltering crone at my place,
her eyes burnt by cigarettes
as she eats betrayal like a slice of meat.
I must not sleep
for while I’m asleep I’m ninety
and think I’m dying.
Death rattles in my throat
like a marble.
I wear tubes like earrings.
I lie as still as a bar of iron.
You can stick a needle
through my kneecap and I won’t flinch.
I’m all shot up with Novocain.
This trance girl
is yours to do with.
You could lay her in a grave,
an awful package,
and shovel dirt on her face
and she’d never call back: Hello there!
But if you kissed her on the mouth
her eyes would spring open
and she’d call out: Daddy! Daddy!
She’s out of prison.
There was a theft.
That much I am told.
I was abandoned.
That much I know.
I was forced backward.
I was forced forward.
I was passed hand to hand
like a bowl of fruit.
Each night I am nailed into place
and forget who I am.
That’s another kind of prison.
It’s not the prince at all,
but my father
drunkenly bends over my bed,
circling the abyss like a shark,
my father thick upon me
like some sleeping jellyfish.
What voyage is this, little girl?
This coming out of prison?
God help -
this life after death?
[This is one of my favorite love poems about, well, not finding love.]
You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me – the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods –
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.
You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at;
longing. An open window
in a country house –, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chance upon, –
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening . . .
[I first heard this in the soundtrack of the TV series Beauty and the Beast.]
You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything;
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
[This is the last of my favorite poems from Rilke's Duino Elegies.]
Every angel’s terrifying. Almost deadly birds
of my soul, I know what you are, but, oh,
I still sing to you! What happened to the days of Tobias
when one of you stood in a simple doorway, partly
disguised for the trip, radiant, no longer appalling;
(a young man to the young man as he looked out amazed)/
If the archangel, the dangerous one behind the stars,
took just one step down toward us today: the quicker
pounding of our heart would kill us. Who are you?
Fortunate first ones, creation’s pampered darlings,
ranges, mountain tops, morning-red ridges
of all Beginning — seed of a blossoming god,
hinges of light, hallways, stairways, thrones,
spaces of being, force fields of ecstasy, storms
of unchecked rapture, and suddenly, separate,
mirrors: each drawing its own widespread
streaming beauty back into its face.
But we: we vanish in our feelings. Oh we breathe
ourselves out, and out; our smell dissolves
from ember to ember. It’s true, someone may tell us:
“You’re in my blood, this room, Spring floods
with you …” What good is it? He can’t hold us.
We vanish in him and around him. And the beautiful,
oh, who can hold them back? Some look is always rising
in their faces, and falling. Like dew on new grass,
like heat from a steaming dish, everything we are rises
away from us. O smile, where are you going?
O upturned look: new, warm, the heart’s receding wave –
it hurts me, but that’s what we are. Does the cosmic
space we dissolve into taste of us, then? Do angels
really absorb only what poured out of them,
or sometimes, as if by mistake, is there a trace
of us, too? Do the contours of their features bear
as much of us as that vague look on a pregnant woman’s
face? Unnoticed by them in their whirling back
into themselves. (Why should they notice.)
If they were understood, lovers might say marvelous
things in the night air. Because it seems everything
wants to camouflage us. Look, trees exist;
the houses we live in still hold up. But we
pass by all of it like an exchange of breath.
Everything conspires to ignore us, half out of shame,
perhaps, half out of some speechless hope.
Lovers, satisfied with each other, I’m asking you
about us. You hold each other. What’s your proof?
Look, sometimes it happens my hands become aware
of each other, or my worn out face seeks shelter
in them. Then I feel a slight sensation.
But who’d dare to exist just for that?
Yet you, who grow in the other’s ecstasy
until he’s overcome and begs: “No more!”;
you, who in one another’s hands grow
more abundand like grapes in a vintage year;
you, who sometimes disappear, but only when the other
takes over completely, I’m asking you about us.
I know why you touch each other so ecstatically:
that touch lasts. That place you cover with such
enderness doesn’t vanish, because you feel a pure
duration there. In your embrace you almost find
the promise of eternity. And yet, when you’ve survived
the fear of that first look, the longing at the window
and that first walk in the garden, once: lovers,
are you still the same? When you lift yourselves
up to each other’s lips and begin, drink for drink –
oh how strangely the drinker then slips from the role.
Didn’t the caustion of human gestures on Attic steles
amaze you? Weren’t love and separation placed
on those shoulders so lightly they seemed mad
of other stuff than we are? Remember the hands:
despite the power in the torso, they lie weightless.
The self-controlled knew this: we can only go this far.
All we can do is touch one another like this. The gods
can press down harder on us, but that’s the gods’ affair.
If only we could find something pure, contained,
narrow, human — our own small strip of orchard
between river and rock. For our heart rises
out of us as it did out of the others. And we can’t
follow it any longer into figures that tame it, or
into godlike bodies where it finds a greater mastery.