120

The universe expands 1.3 miles per second,
like the body of a child growing day by day,
a baby, still learning what it is to be alive,
unaware of the ways his body works.
He does not think to wonder about the nucleolus sun
or the planets inside each plasma heliosphere.
He doesn’t know about the bacterium
swarming over his organelles,
reproducing even as his immune system struggles
with their pollution. Even when he stumbles,
skinning his knee the first time he walks,
he will not mourn the loss of countless solar systems,
but instead cry at the injustice of being small
and bound by the rules of such an immense
and ever expanding universe.

Not my best, but something

Silence is not absence of sound, an empty glass
waiting to be filled, a shrunken tenon inside the mortis,
dry wood where green wood once fit snug.
It is not a child resisting sleep, eyes half shut,
afraid of missing what might happen next.
Instead, it is a station at midday,
one train departed, another yet to arrive.
It is sap in the bud, before the flower,
that waits to call the bees.
Silence is the pitcher, filled
in the cool shade of the house,
placed on the counter so that
anyone who is thirsty
can fill a glass,
and drink.

Personal Mythology 2

This is the second piece in a series about family lore and personal mythology that I am writing (part one is here). My grandfather was a Woodson, and there are two sides of that family; the potato Woodsons and the tub Woodsons. The distinction between the lines of the family come from two brothers who were hidden during an attack on their home. The boys were hidden in the potato cellar and under a wash tub.

Tub Woodson

I remember lines, tall grass
of light, a field of spaces
between barrel slats, horizon
of shadow at the banding.
Squat light snared on floor joints,
geometric edges converse of shadow,
and faint on each plank, like a world
lost, the irregular outline of grain;
snakes moving from shade
into sun, a river seen from afar,
etching the land.
Later, only the arrow,
straight as a sapling cut down,
its taproot in my father’s chest,
returned light to the moon.
He lay across ridges and furrows,
felled at the margin between wilderness and farm,
marking the divide.

Poetry month (day twenty-eight)

One Girl
by Sappho
(translated By Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

I
Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
Atop on the topmost twig, — which the pluckers forgot, somehow, —
Forget it not, nay; but got it not, for none could get it till now.

II
Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and wound,
Until the purple blossom is trodden in the ground.

Poetry month (day twenty-seven)

Pick-up_record_player

Man Dancing with a Baby
By Susan Stewart

Before balance, before counting, before
The record glistens and the needle slides,
Grating, into the overture, there is the end
Of weight, the leaning into nothing and then

A caught breath, the record listens, the needle slides
Over slowly, and all at once around us a woman’s voice
Stretches weightless, leaning into nothing.
Like a clothesline, the taut chorus: oh, hilarious

Oh baby, all around us, over slowly, a woman’s voice
Gathers above the pick me up, pick me up
And the desperate put, put me down. First the tightrope,
Then the light foot, and the taunting chorus

Pick me up, pick me up. Oh, oh baby.
The slippery floor shimmers and spins like a record while
The light is swinging footloose on its rope
Out of time. The shadows

Slip, shimmering black, and spin across the floor,
Then turn back and pick up again. Oh seedpod stuck for just
One moment on the cattail, out of time, out of shadows,
Downy cheek against a beard: oh scratches

On the record, oh baby, oh measure
Oh strange balance that grips us
On this side of the world.

Poetry month (day twenty-three)

flower_rain_drop-wallpaper-1280x960

Storm Ending
by Jean Toomer

Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

Poetry month (day twenty-two)

The Grauballe Man
by Seamus Heaney

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

poetry month (day twenty-one)

The Secret
by Denise Levertov

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

Poetry month (day twenty)

Snowfall
by Ravi Shankar

Particulate as ash, new year’s first snow falls
upon peaked roofs, car hoods, undulant hills,
in imitation of motion that moves the way

static cascades down screens when the cable
zaps out, persistent & granular with a flicker
of legibility that dissipates before it can be

interpolated into any succession of imagery.
One hour stretches sixty minutes into a field
of white flurry: hexagonal lattices of water

molecules that accumulate in drifts too soon
strewn with sand, hewn into browning
mounds by plow blade, left to turn to slush.

Poetry month (day nineteen)

Plums_in_basket

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

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