This Week in Poetry

This week I found myself moved by Valentina Gnup's "A Thousand Possible Clouds". I love how the poem tantalizes me first with imaginative yet apt description and then takes me to a much deeper and unexpected place. The poem entices my eyes and my ears with a delicate mixture of images and abstracts, and then cunningly captures my heart. The picture is "What the Cloud Doesn't Do", courtesy of Alexander Haislip. and TECH-CRUNCH.

 

A THOUSAND POSSIBLE CLOUDS

Go find a pencil

the world is a terrible first draft.

When you write a story, you have choices—

horizon, chickweed, loneliness,

a copse of trees harbors soldiers

stealthily as a virus invades a body

or holds redwoods, gentle as grandparents,

collecting their centuries in a map of pale rings.

Listen, a foghorn beyond the fields

moans like an animal suffering

the sky has surrendered its hours

or exploded into a thousand possible clouds.

The children on the road far behind you

have lost their parents, their country—

someone got too greedy

someone believed he knew what was right.

Or they’re your children on that road

carrying home blackberries to make cobbler—

cut the butter into the flour, stop to kiss

the swirled crowns of their heads.

 

Valentina Gnup

Today on Rattle: Posted July 27, 2017

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2017
Editor’s Choice

This Week in Poetry

After a long layoff (self imposed) I am back to post a poem that delighted me this week. My talented and wonderfully kind cousin, Norm Hutcherson, took the beet challenge. That is to say, he put beets, actually one (some?) of my favorite things, in a whimsical and caring poem about loving others and living life. I wanted to treat readers to Norm's deep spirit and tantalizing word play. Bon appetit!

Garden Graze

(Bob beets through an Open Window)

Bob beets

The pedal opens

An opera wails

As the phantom wanders

A steel gray sky

In a misty morning

The farmers till

The rich brown foam

A shark delights

As the tourists wander

Through their feeding grounds

On this summer's day

But still I smile

As Bob digs through

The beets

Looking for the one

That will make Terri's day

A perfect reach

On an artist's tablet

The sum of all dreams

On this loom of needs

An open door

To a child's sense of wonder

As Bob tills the soil

And the beets

Come to stay

July 4, 2017

This Week in Poetry

There will soon be a lot of toasting going on, with a new year less than a week away. Wendy Videlock's poem,  A Toast,  reminds me of Garp's dying request that his wife remember "everything." Videlock's poem is an act of inclusive respect, and in just a few lines she offers us a world. And then, please read on to find Virginia Hamilton Adair's wonderful poem, Red Camellias. This poem captures so well how our dead loved ones stay with us and, perhaps, add a dimension to our lives. The photo is a poor thing but my own. Wishing you all the best of new years!

A TOAST

Here’s to the mountain,
here’s to the sky,
here’s to the who
and the what, and the why,
here’s to the leisure,
here’s to the chore,
here’s to the pit,
and the skin, and the core,
here’s to the ancient,

here’s to the now,
here’s to the thumb
and the seed and the plow,
here’s to the fire,
here’s to the shore,

here’s to the star
and the freak, and the bore,
here’s to the addict,
here’s to the saint,

here’s to the song
and the hum of complaint,
here’s to the miner,
here’s to the crone,
here’s to the ruined,
the staid, and the flown,
here’s to the wrist,

here’s to the tongue,
here’s to the rib
and the cage and the bone.

Wendy Videlock

Rattle Poets Respond
Posted: 27 Dec 2015 12:00 AM PST

RED CAMELLIAS

You going ahead of me
down unlighted stairs …
but waking in our window
the lawn green through red & white
camellias, I know neverness.
It was a dream. Nine years
since you saw the sun rise, gold spill
through leaves, over lawns. My face
has grown old, knees stiffen
making ridiculous my love
of racing barefoot.
In the kitchen I drink coffee
eat peanuts, read a clipping:
“Robert Mezey likes it here.”
Run upstairs to reopen
pages of an earlier world
pure forms, forgotten games.
To survive we must unlearn much.
Lovemaker, wandering Jew,
did you see them plain
my friends, foes, mentors
Gordon & Roberta of “Kenyon Canyon”?
To be acclaimed young is heady
later on a drag.
The camellias are dropping,
structures & colors come apart.
I salute you, not-quite-stranger.
Poets still coast into day on dreams
drink coffee with the dead
write letters they never send.

Virginia Hamilton Adair

from Rattle #7, Summer 1997

Posted: 22 Dec 2015 12:00 AM PST

 

This Week in Poetry

This week two poems about death (its coming, our going) caught my eye. I love the way Nina Lindsay's poem, In The End, shows us much about what it is to be human and to be alive. I also love Alan Fox's Ashes to ... for the way he plays with language and gives me shivers with just a few brief lines. Please check these out, and Happy Thanksgiving!

IN THE END

These are my last wishes:
to lie beneath the rosemary,
the scrubby kind, used for hedging
municipal buildings, shelter

to rats and trash.
It smells good,
it’s cheap, it blooms,
you hack it back
when it gets too big.
For some reason
they never remove it, when it’s obvious
they should, and replant.
Lying there, who would notice
me listening:

the boys scheming
to hop the fence but not doing it;
the couple not quite yet a couple, at least
they don’t think so.
They talk about their week.
Who else would care, with such
obvious delight
about such crap? They are in love.
So is the dog
with the girl, who calls him
and he comes. And she throws it

and he goes.
The girl, last week, stole
a stuffed animal from the library.
She doesn’t know it was stealing.
It stays with her in sleep and smells,
now, like her most intimate self.
It is comfort and conscience, her heart
displayed so brazenly,
no one would dare think of it.
In twenty years, its memory
will roll up in her gut
like a stone long formed—
and this is how she will learn
to forgive herself,
and to treasure human error.
Now her sneakers shush
across the concrete, warm
August air laps against her ankles.
The dog is still going at it,
his ears flop
in rhythm with her breath.
My last wish

is to be that.

Nina Lindsay

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015

Posted on Today in Rattle: 23 Nov 2015 12:00 AM PST

 

ASHES TO …

Now into limbo depth of time
Is fled that soul which had a man
And silent, empty, earth pressed bone
Remains, to learn decay alone.

Where to, where from, where hence, where gone
None other knows, or cares, or can,
A grab bag chance, a sack of skin,
To mask our come, and going in.

 Alan Fox

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015

Posted on Today on Rattle, 11-17-2015

 

This Week in Poetry

The poem that caught my eye and my heart this week was Peter Munro's beautifully human "If This Is Middle Age Then I’ll Die At 93.667". The picture of the British sitcom "Outnumbered" cast seemed right in spirit. Loved that show, love this poem. And Munro uses form to capture the kisses and bites of family life. What's not to like?

IF THIS IS MIDDLE AGE THEN I’LL DIE AT 93.667

I’m old enough this horniness should lapse.
I’m told it will. Mortgage. College fund. Worry.
I’ve fallen into all the usual traps

guys fear: mid-level management, a dreary
cubicle (will the corner office be mine?

I’m told it will), mortgage, college fund, worry

that our five-year-old will poke out his eye
playing war or the treehouse might collapse
under our first-grader. My grand designs

(to win the World Cup, a Nobel and, perhaps,
impose world peace) are currently on hold.
I’m old enough this horniness should lapse

as well, should wilt away or come unsouled
from the body. Instead, the atoms that ferry
my life vibrate me till I am made bold,

electric with a steadily thrummed fury,
urgent to loosen the clips, cups, and straps
binding my wife’s breasts. Deftly, she parries

Destructo Rays that our five-year-old zaps
at us, fired across a toy-strewn battlefield.
I’ve fallen into all the usual traps:

contentment, comfort, the standard epic told
bardic: plans foiled, retreat, good guys harried
then bad guys driven back by our six-year-old,

everyone safe at last. I love, unwary
I kiss my wife. The world may fall to scraps.
I’m told it will. Mortgage, college fund, worry:

I’ve fallen into all the usual traps.
I’m old enough. This horniness should lapse.

 

Peter Munro

Today on Rattle, posted Oct. 21, 2015

from Rattle #49, Fall 2015
Tribute to Scientists

This Week In Poetry

Two poems on a similar theme moved me this week, so it seemed right to pair them here. In Ghazal: Back Home, Zeina Hashem Beck uses form to capture the pain of having to flee a homeland, perhaps never to return. Brendan Constantine's A Little Black speaks of the consequences for the children whose parents either decide to stay, or are forced to remain, in a strife-torn country.

GHAZAL: BACK HOME

For Syria, September 2015

Tonight a little boy couldn’t walk on water or row back home.
The sea turned its old face away. Again, there was a no, no, back home.

Bahr* is how we were taught to measure poetry,
bahr is how we’ve stopped trying to measure sorrow, back home.
“All that blue is the sea, and it gives life, gives life,” says God to the boy
standing wet at heaven’s gate—does he want to return, to go back home?
My friend who hates cooking has made that eggplant dish,
says nothing was better than yogurt and garlic and tomato, back home.
On the train tracks, a man shouts, “Hold me, hold me,” to his wife,
bites her sleeve, as if he were trying to tow back home.
Thirteen-year-old Kinan with the big eyes says, “We don’t want to stay in Europe.”
“Just stop the war,” he repeats, as if praying, Grow, grow back, home.

Habibi, I never thought our children would write HELP US on cardboard.
Let’s try to remember how we met years ago, back home.
On our honeymoon we kissed by the sea, watched it
rock the lights, the fishing boats to and fro, back home.

* Bahr is Arabic for sea. Also, in Arabic poetry, bahr means meter.

ZEINA HASHEM BECK
Rattle—Poets Respond
September 6, 2015

 

video Block
Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more

 

 

 

A LITTLE BLACK

The children of Juarez have run out
of red crayons. There's so much blood

in their eyes; the bodies of mules
dumped in their schools, hands & heads

by the road, blood in pools, blood
in stories of blood. Before I know it,

I'm planning my own crime, the worst
a poet can commit: to steal suffering,

call it mine. How vivid, I think, what
a strong detail on which to build.

I open my computer, the great self-
making book of our age, search for

more of the story, for the words run
out of red crayons. I find children

out of red in Pakistan, in Haiti, no red
left in Afghanistan, none in Georgia.

The children of Sierra Leon have gone
through pink to purple, in Myanmar

they're down to brown. I thought I had
something to add. I have nothing to add

but a little black, the color of the line,
color that consumes all others.

 

BRENDAN CONSTANTINE
Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond
Pacific Coast Poetry Series

 

This Week In Poetry

I found the poem that moved me this week while catching up with a stack of New Yorkers. This brief poem by Michael Longley made me cry and gave me goosebumps. I find it beautiful and heartbreaking. I think Longley is a magician who works with words. I keep rereading his poem to see how he conjured in me such deep yearning and sadness. The image is courtesy of Deviant Art.

THE SNOWDROPS

Inauspicious between headstones

On Angel Hill, wintry love

Tokens for Murdo, Alistair,

Duncan, home from the trenches,

Back in Balmacara and Kyle,

Cameronians, Gordon Highlanders

Clambering on hands and knees

Up the steep path to this graveyard

The snowdrops whiten, green-

Hemmed frost-piercers, buttonhole

Or posy, Candlemas bells

For soldiers who come here on leave

And rest against rusty railings

Like out-of-breath pallbearers.

 

Michael Longley

THE NEW YORKER, AUGUST 31, 2015

 

GILLY GILLY OSSENFEFFER KATZENELLENBOGEN BY THE SEA

Where is Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen she said as we motored down the Long Island Expressway and I said

where is it written that I have to answer your crazy questions and she said

where did I put my makeup purse and black mascara and I said

where did I go wrong in life that I have to continually listen to a woman talking to herself and she said

where is the pretzel stick that I gave you to save for me this morning and I said

where is the nearest insane asylum I can drive you to, to get you treated and she said

where do you get off talking to me like that and I said

where do you think you are, in a chauffeured limo with a driver who will cater to your every whim and she said

where can I hit you that will leave no marks and not cause us to crash and I said

where are the quarters that I left in the glove compartment to pay the tolls and she said

where oh where have his little coins gone oh where oh where can they be and I said

where they are is where I put them unless someone placed them somewhere else and she said

where do you think that would be Sherlock and I said

where do you think a person who doesn’t care about taking things and not replacing them would put the money and she said

where the hell are we and I said

where we have always been and she said

where is that and I said

where that is, is for me to know and you to find out and she said

where is the next rest stop I need to get out of the car and I said

where can a guy go to get some peace around here and she said

where there’s no human beings around like Mars and I said

where did we go off the rails on this trip and she said

where we went off was when we met ten years ago and I said

where do you think you’ll be ten years from now and she said

where I can wake up happy and not be hassled by you and I said

where exactly do you think that would be and she said

Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen by the sea.

 

Martin H. Levinson

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

 

This Week In Poetry

A poem that moved me last week and that continues to stir my thoughts this week is Stevie Edwards' "After the Vigil for the Charleston Church Massacre". I admire Edwards' depth of thought as well as her poetic language. Image is courtesy of IBTimes.com.

AFTER THE VIGIL FOR THE CHARLESTON CHURCH MASSACRE

Ithaca, NY – June 24, 2015

What if we built a God
out of justice. If we prayed

for justice to lead our daily actions
before scrambled eggs and coffee,
if we tithed to justice, dated
only people who believed in the right
justice, got our knees dirty
kneeling on asphalt
in front of police stations
and banks praying for justice
to banish the infidels. What if
we worshipped justice
as much as comfort,
didn’t move our protest lines
when the cab drivers honked.
What if after the vigil
nobody asked if people wanted
to do a die-in, if it wasn’t
perhaps too late. What if
we asked justice what she thinks
we should do to the town
tonight. What if justice
says we need more cowbell,
more pots and pans,
more yell with our lily white
liberal mouths. What if justice
says she doesn’t even need us—

checking our cellphones
on the crowd’s periphery

as a black woman talks about fear.

Stevie Edwards

 

Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, online June 28, 2015