The Prodigal

Dark morning rain
Meant to fall
On a prison and a schoolyard,
Falling meanwhile
On my mother and her old dog.

How slow she shuffles now
In my father’s Sunday shoes. 
the dog by her side
Trembling with each step
As he tries to keep up. 

I am on another corner waiting
With my head shaved.
My mind hops like a sparrow
In the rain.
I’m always watching and worrying about her.

Everything is a magic ritual,
A secret cinema,
The way she appears in a window hours later
To set the empty bowl
And spoon on the table,
And then exits
So that the day may pass,
And the night may fall
Into the empty bowl,
Empty room, empty house,
While the rain keeps
Knocking at the front door.

Charles Simic

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I can’t stop thinking about it

The Parrot Fish

The shadow of the little fishing launch
Discreetly, inch by inch,
Crept after us on its belly over
The reef’s uneven floor.

The motor gasped our drowsy vapor.
Seconds went by before
Anyone thought to interpret
The jingling of Inez’s bracelet.

Chalk-violet, olive, all veils and sequins, a
Priestess out of the next Old Testament extravaganza,
With round gold eyes and miniscule buckteeth,
Up flaunted into death

The parrot fish. And for a full hour beat
Irregular, passionate
Tattoos from its casket lined with zinc.
Finally we understood, I think.

Ashore, the warm waves licked our feet.
One or two heavy chords the heat
Struck, set the white beach vibrating
And throwing back its head the sea began to sing.

James Merrill

Why I Am Not A Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.
Frank O’Hara
How great is that line “There should be / so much more / not of orange, of / words, of how terrible orange is / and life.”

Hedgehog

The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret

With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.

We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.

The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.

We forget the god
under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
will a god trust in the world.
 
Paul Muldoon

Keats’ Ode To A Nightingale

as recited by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
    Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
    ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
    But being too happy in thine happiness,—
    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
    In some melodious plot
    Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

    O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
    Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
    Tasting of Flora and the country green,
    Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
    O for a beaker full of the warm South,
    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
    And purple-stained mouth;
    That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

    Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
    What thou among the leaves hast never known,
    The weariness, the fever, and the fret
    Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
    Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
    Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
    Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
    And leaden-eyed despairs,
    Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
    Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

    Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
    Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
    But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
    Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
    Already with thee! tender is the night,
    And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
    Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
    But here there is no light,
    Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

    I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
    Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
    But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
    Wherewith the seasonable month endows
    The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
    White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
    Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
    And mid-May’s eldest child,
    The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

    Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
    Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
    Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
    While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
    In such an ecstasy!
    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
    To thy high requiem become a sod.

    Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
    The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown:
    Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
    The same that oft-times hath
    Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

    Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
    To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
    Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
    As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
    Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
    Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
    Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
    In the next valley-glades:
    Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music: — Do I wake or sleep?

(via)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Wallace Stevens