Friday, July 26, 2013

The Shout

We went out
into the school yard together, me and the boy
whose name and face

I don't remember. We were testing the range
of the human voice:
he had to shout for all he was worth

I had to raise an arm
from across the divide to signal back
that the sound had carried.

He called from over the park — I lifted an arm.
Out of bounds,
he yelled from the end of the road,

from the foot of the hill,
from beyond the look-out post of Fretwell's Farm —
I lifted an arm.

He left town, went on to be twenty years dead
with a gunshot hole
in the roof of his mouth, in Western Australia.

Boy with the name and face I don't remember,
you can stop shouting now, I can still hear you.

by Simon Armitage, from The Shout. © Harcourt Brace, 2005. (buy)

Sunday, June 10, 2012


We have set out from here for the sublime
Pastures of summer shade and mountain stream;
I have no doubt we shall arrive on time.

Is all the green of that enamelled prime
A snapshot recollection or a dream?
We have set out from here for the sublime

Without provisions, without one thin dime,
And yet, for all our clumsiness, I deem
It certain that we shall arrive on time.

No guidebook tells you if you'll have to climb
Or swim. However foolish we may seem,
We have set out from here for the sublime

And must get past the scene of an old crime
Before we falter and run out of steam,
Riddled by doubt that we'll arrive on time.
Yet even in winter a pale paradigm
Of birdsong utters its obsessive theme.
We have set out from here for the sublime;
I have no doubt we shall arrive on time.
"Prospects" a villanelle by Anthony Hecht, from Selected Poems

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Bull Moose

Down from the purple mist of trees on the mountain,
lurching through forests of white spruce and cedar,
stumbling through tamarack swamps,
came the bull moose
to be stopped at last by a pole-fenced pasture.

Too tired to turn or, perhaps, aware
there was no place left to go, he stood with the cattle.
They, scenting the musk of death, seeing his great head
like the ritual mask of a blood god, moved to the other end
of the field, and waited.

The neighbors heard of it, and by afternoon
cars lined the road. The children teased him
with alder switches and he gazed at them
like an old, tolerant collie. The women asked
if he could have escaped from a Fair.

The oldest man in the parish remembered seeing 
a gelded moose yoked with an ox for plowing.
The young men snickered and tried to pour beer
down his throat, while their girl friends took their pictures.

And the bull moose let them stroke his tick-ravaged flanks,
let them pry open his jaws with bottles, let a giggling girl
plant a little purple cap
of thistles on his head.

When the wardens came, everyone agreed it was a shame
to shoot anything so shaggy and cuddlesome.
He looked like the kind of pet
women put to bed with their sons.

So they held their fire. But just as the sun dropped in the river
the bull moose gathered his strength
like a scaffold king, straightened and lifted his horns
so that even the wardens backed away as they raised their rifles.
When he roared, people ran to their cars. All the young men
leaned on their automobile horns as he toppled.

by Alden Nowlan, from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread (very good, buy it)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The River

The way we fished for bullheads
was simple: hook, line, bobber,
cane pole and worm.

The murky, brown water of Root River
is where they hid
and waited our return.

The bobber was red & white.
At the first bite it danced then ran,
before going under—and I knew

that if it stayed under the fish
was on. Hooking them (they almost
always swallowed the bait)

was one thing, getting the hook
out without getting hooked oneself
on their lateral and frontal barbs

was quite another. That was
the solitary fishing
that few enjoyed as much as me.

I didn't understand then what
I needed in equal parts was
excitement, activity and adventure—

and more important than any
of these, solitude, in which my
being could be nourished

in silence. That silence
in which the imagination,
unbidden, comes to life.

Fishing alone brought
all of this together,
because it included living

beings, the mystery of life
from another realm that I could
pursue with my body my

imagination and my mind,
marveling at what I found,
not knowing what any of it could mean

or did mean, or would mean,
as I slowly moved
through the opening days of my life

"The River" by David Kherdian, from Nearer the Heart. © Taderon Press, 2006.(buy now)

(The "we" in this poem could have been Rush Gordon, my grandmother's handyman, grabbing the cane poles outside behind the laundry room, and walking me, as a little boy, down to Gran Gran's pond)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Being in Love

Awakened from a dream, I curl up
and turn. The roses on the dresser
smile and your words bloom.
The red roses for Valentine's Day.

Like in a film
thoughts of you unfold
moment by moment.

I vaguely hear
the sound of your spoon scooping cereal
the water stream in the shower
the buzzing noise of your electric razor
like a singing of cicada.

Your footsteps in and out of the bedroom.
Your lips touching my cheek lightly.
And the sound of the door shutting.

In your light
I fall asleep again under the warm quilt
happily like a child.

Upon waking
on the kitchen counter I find a half
grapefruit carefully cut and sectioned.
Such a loving touch is a milestone
For my newly found happiness.

- Chungmi Kim, from Glacier Lily. © Red Hen Press, 2004.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


You can see him in the village almost anytime.
He's always on the street.
At noon he ambles down to Jerry's
in case a trucker who's stopped by for lunch
might feel like buying him a sandwich.
Don't misunderstand, Ben's not starving;
he's there each noon because he's sociable,
not because he's hungry.
He is a friend to everyone except the haughty.

There are at least half a dozen families in the village
who make sure he always has enough to eat
and there are places
where he's welcome to come in and spend the night.

Ben is a cynic in the Greek and philosophic sense,
one who gives his life to simplicity
seeking only the necessities
so he can spend his days
in the presence of his dreams.

Ben is a vision of another way,
the vessel in this place for
ancient Christian mystic, Buddhist recluse, Taoist hermit.
Chuang Tzu, The Abbot Moses, Meister Eckhart,
Khamtul Rimpoche, Thomas Merton—
all these and all the others live in Ben, because

in America only a dog
can spend his days
on the street or by the river
in quiet contemplation
and be fed.

"Ben" by David Budbill, from Judevine. © Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Common Ground

Today I dug an orange tree out of the damp, black earth.
My grandfather bought a grove near Anaheim
at just my age. Like me, he didn't know much.
"How'd you learn to grow oranges, Bill?"
friends said. "Well," he said, "I look at what

my neighbor does, and I just do the opposite."
Up in Oregon, he and his brother discovered
the Willamette River. They were both asleep
on the front of the wagon, the horses stopped,
his brother woke up. "Will," he said, "am it a river?"

My grandfather, he cooked for the army during the war,
the first one. He flipped the pancakes up the chimney,
they came right back through the window onto the griddle.
In the Depression he worked in a laundry during the night,
struck it rich in pocketknives. My grandfather,

he liked to smoke in his orange grove, as far away on the property
as he could get from my grandmother,
who didn't approve of life in general, him in particular.
Smoking gave him something to feel disapproved for,
set the world back to rights. Like everyone else,

my grandfather sold his grove to make room
for Disneyland. He laughed all the way to the bank,
bought in town, lived to see his grandsons born
and died of cancer before anyone wanted him to, absent
now in the rootless presence of damp, black earth.

"Common Ground" by Paul J. Willis, from Visiting Home. © Pecan Grove Press, 2008.