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Ars Poetica 131

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light. 
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves, 
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows, 
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine 
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

by Mark Strand

Ars Poetica 130

Changing Genres

I was satisfied with haiku until I met you,
jar of octopus, cuckoo’s cry, 5-7-5,
but now I want a Russian novel,
a 50-page description of you sleeping,
another 75 of what you think staring out
a window. I don’t care about the plot
although I suppose there will have to be one,
the usual separation of the lovers, turbulent
seas, danger of decommission in spite
of constant war, time in gulps and glitches
passing, squibs of threnody, a fallen nest,
speckled eggs somehow uncrushed, the sled
outracing the wolves on the steppes, the huge
glittering ball where all that matters
is a kiss at the end of a dark hall.
At dawn the officers ride back to the garrison,
one without a glove, the entire last chapter
about a necklace that couldn’t be worn
inherited by a great-niece
along with the love letters bound in silk.

by Dean Young

Ars Poetica 129

Dwelling

As though touching her
might make him known to himself,

as though his hand moving
over her body might find who
he is, as though he lay inside her, a country

his hand's traveling uncovered,
as though such a country arose
continually up out of her
to meet his hand's setting forth and setting forth.

And the places on her body have no names.
And she is what's immense about the night.
And their clothes on the floor are arranged
for forgetfulness.

by Li-Young Lee

Ars Poetica 128

Evening Talk

Everything you didn’t understand
Made you what you are. Strangers
Whose eye you caught on the street
Studying you. Perhaps they were all-seeing
Illuminati? They knew what you didn’t,
And left you troubled like a strange dream.

Not even the light stayed the same.
Where did all that hard glare come from?
And the scent, as if mythical beings
Were being groomed and fed stalks of hay
On these roofs drifting among the evening clouds.

You didn’t understand a thing!
You loved the crowds at the end of the day
That brought you so many mysteries.
There was always someone you were meant to meet
Who for some reason wasn’t waiting.
Or perhaps they were? But not here, friend.

You should have crossed the street
And followed that obviously demented woman
With the long streak of blood-red hair
Which the sky took up like a distant cry.

by Charles Simic

Ars Poetica 127

Good Night

Sleep softly my old love
my beauty in the dark
night is a dream we have
as you know as you know

night is a dream you know
an old love in the dark
around you as you go
without end as you know

in the night where you go
sleep softly my old love
without end in the dark
in the love that you know

by W.S. Merwin

Ars Poetica 126

 

Any body can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X=your zenith.

by Robert Pinsky


Ars Poetica 125

Adult 

I’ve come back to the country where I was happy
changed.  Passion puts no terrible strain on me now.
I wonder what will take the place of desire.
I could be the ghost of my own life returning
to the places I lived best.  Walking here and there,
nodding when I see something I cared for deeply.
Now I’m in my house listening to the owls calling
and wondering if slowly I will take on flesh again.

by Linda Gregg

Ars Poetica 124

Late Valentine

We weren’t exactly children again,
too many divorces, too many blood panels,
but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.
Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,
even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke
blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done
ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,
ashy furrows like the folds in the brain
that signal the switchbacks and reversals
of our thought and just as brief. Your lips
were song, your hair everywhere.
Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little
bother you were then, no more
than a tangerine rind. Oh unknowable
other, how I loved your smell.

by Dean Young

Ars Poetica 123

Her Kind
 
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

by Anne Sexton

Ars Poetica 122

Universe

The window was open to the night.
You kissed me deeply
as if you needed to get in
fast,
and even if I was slow
to catch on
I felt the sense of
what you sent
and felt how far into space
you meant to go.
Around me people shift,
becoming warm as I move away,
becoming cold,
while you—still you—
you stay still
in a way that I will
always find transporting.

by Susan Minot

Ars Poetica 121

Yellow Stars and Ice

I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds
and you are as far as the deepest root and wound, 
and I am as far as a train at evening, 
as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember. 
You are as far as an unimagined animal 
who, frightened by everything, never appears. 
I am as far as cicadas and locusts
and you are as far as the cleanest arrow 
that has sewn the wind to the light on 
the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers 
that stains the deepest sky between clouds, 
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

You are as far as a red-marbled stream 
where children cut their feet on the stones 
and cry out. And I am as far as their happy 
mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass 
and singing, "You are as far as another life, 
as far as another life are you."
And I am as far as an infinite alphabet 
made from yellow stars and ice, 
and you are as far as the nails of the dead man, 
as far as a sailor can see at midnight 
when he's drunk and the moon is an empty cup, 
and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory.

I am as far as the corners of a room where no one 
has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners 
of the earth. And you are as far as the voices 
of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints 
and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal 
blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you. 
And you are as far as a horse without a rider 
can run in six years, two months and five days.
I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with
his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his
jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road.
As far as the space between word and word, 
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved 
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember, 
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken, 
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

by Susan Stewart

Ars Poetica 120

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

by Robert Pinsky

Ars Poetica 119

Life's Tragedy

It may be misery not to sing at all, 
And to go silent through the brimming day; 
It may be misery never to be loved, 
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To sing the perfect song, 
And by a half-tone lost the key, 
There the potent sorrow, there the grief, 
The pale, sad staring of Life's Tragedy.

To have come near to the perfect love, 
Not the hot passion of untempered youth, 
But that which lies aside its vanity, 
And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.

This, this indeed is to be accursed, 
For if we mortals love, or if we sing, 
We count our joys not by what we have, 
But by what kept us from that perfect thing. 

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Ars Poetica 118

Big Game

        —after Richard Brautigan's "A Candlelion Poem"

What began as wildfire ends up
on a candle wick. In reverse,
it is contained,

a lion head in a hunter's den.
Big Game.

Bigger than one I played
with matches and twigs and glass
in the shade.

When I was young, there was no sun
and I was afraid.

Now, in grownhood, I call the ghost
to my fragile table, my fleshy supper,
my tiny flame.

Not just any old, but THE ghost,
the last one I will be,

the future me,
finally the sharpest knife
in the drawer.

The pride is proud.
The crowd is loud, like garbage dumping

or how a brown bag ripping
sounds like a shout
that tells the town the house

is burning down.
Drowns out some small folded breath

of otherlife: O that of a lioness licking her cubs to sleep in a dream of
savage gold.

O that roaring, not yet and yet
and not yet dead.

So many fires start in my head.

by Brenda Shaughnessy

Ars Poetica 117

homage to my hips

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,   
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

by Lucille Clifton

Ars Poetica 116

The Mechanic 

Most men use
their eyes
like metronomes
clicking off the beats
of a woman’s walk;
how her lips press
against the cloth, as figs before
they split their purple skins
on the tree,
measuring how much of her walk
goes into bed at night,
the jar of the sky
being filled with the Milky Way
glittering for every time
she moves her lips

but of course
the secrets
are not the obvious beats
in the song
that even a bad drummer can play

hearing the speed of the motor
- it too made up of beats -
so fast,
subtle, I suppose,
they register
as continuous sound
or the heart which of course
beats without any fan belt to keep it
cool.
it is a test,
a rhythm,
they could not see
with those measuring eyes
though perhaps there are some
whose fingers and ears
are so close to the motors
with clean oil passing through their ears
and draining properly into the brain pan,
perhaps a few…

who can tell
what the secret bleeding of a woman
is all about

As a woman
with oily stars sticking
on all the tip points
of my skin
I could never
trust a man
who wasn’t a mechanic,
a man who uses his
eyes,
his hands,
listens to
the
heart.

by Diane Wakoski

Ars Poetica 115

"Love of My Flesh, Living Death"

after García Lorca

   Once I wasn’t always so plain.
I was strewn feathers on a cross
of dune, an expanse of ocean
at my feet, garlands of gulls.

   Sirens and gulls. They couldn’t tame you.
You know as well as they: to be
a dove is to bear the falcon
at your breast, your nights, your seas.

   My fear is simple, heart-faced
above a flare of etchings, a lineage
in letters, my sudden stare. It’s you.

   It’s you! sang the heart upon its mantel
pelvis. Blush of my breath, catch
of my see—beautiful bird—It’s you.

by Lorna Dee Cervantes

Ars Poetica 114

Suicide Song

But now I am afraid I know too much to kill myself
Though I would still like to jump off a high bridge

At midnight, or paddle a kayak out to sea
Until I turn into a speck, or wear a necktie made of knotted rope

But people would squirm, it would hurt them in some way,
And I am too knowledgeable now to hurt people imprecisely.

No longer do I live by the law of me,
No longer having the excuse of youth or craziness,

And dying you know shows a serious ingratitude
For sunsets and beehive hairdos and the precious green corrugated

Pickles they place at the edge of your plate.
Killing yourself is wasteful, like spilling oil

At sea or not recycling all the kisses you've been given,
And anyway, who has clothes nice enough to be caught dead in?

Not me. You stay alive you stupid asshole
Because you haven't been excused,

You haven't finished though it takes a mulish stubbornness
To chew this food.

It is a stone, it is an inconvenience, it is an innocence,
And I turn against it like a record

Turns against the needle
That makes it play.

by Tony Hoagland

Ars Poetica 113

[I Failed Him and He Failed Me]  

I failed him and he failed me—
Together our skinned glance makes a sorry bridge 
For some frail specter who can't get through.

I failed him 
               but maybe it was the lamp that failed,
Maybe it was the meal,
Maybe it was the potter 
Who would not intervene, maybe the clay, 
Maybe the plateau's topaz, too steady to help, 
Or was it the meat cut two days late, was it 
The deciduous branch and its dull wait for bloom—

But I remember the small thing rotating in us 
Towards hunger, how it did not fail to guide, 
And that we made no request of our souls or all souls 
Or the one perfectly distant soul 
                                         and so did not fail in what we did not do, 
Never begging at the sky but moving 
On the islands beneath it, hungry together by its rivers and bones. 

Who told us we had failed
If not the human world gone wrong? 

It was the world?

Ah, then we will fail again and again in the waters apart,
Bridging nothing, bridging nowhere 
Towards what we, failures, are.

by Katie Ford

Ars Poetica 112

The Coming of Wisdom with Time

THOUGH leaves are many, the root is one;  
Through all the lying days of my youth  
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;  
Now I may wither into the truth.  

by W.B. Yeats

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Previous Posts
Ars Poetica 131, posted November 18th, 2012
Ars Poetica 130, posted November 18th, 2012
Ars Poetica 129, posted November 5th, 2012
Ars Poetica 128, posted November 4th, 2012
Ars Poetica 127, posted November 4th, 2012
Ars Poetica 126, posted November 4th, 2012
Ars Poetica 125, posted November 3rd, 2012
Ars Poetica 124, posted November 2nd, 2012
Ars Poetica 123, posted October 31st, 2012
Ars Poetica 122, posted October 31st, 2012
Ars Poetica 121, posted October 28th, 2012
Ars Poetica 120, posted October 25th, 2012
Ars Poetica 119, posted October 24th, 2012, 1 comment
Ars Poetica 118, posted October 24th, 2012
Ars Poetica 117, posted October 24th, 2012
Ars Poetica 116, posted October 23rd, 2012, 2 comments
Ars Poetica 115, posted October 22nd, 2012
Ars Poetica 114, posted October 22nd, 2012
Ars Poetica 113, posted January 2nd, 2012, 1 comment
Ars Poetica 112, posted December 31st, 2011
Ars Poetica 111, posted November 28th, 2011
Ars Poetica 110, posted November 26th, 2011
Ars Poetica 109, posted November 17th, 2011, 1 comment
Ars Poetica 108, posted November 15th, 2011
Ars Poetica 107, posted November 14th, 2011
Ars Poetica 106, posted November 13th, 2011
Ars Poetica 105, posted November 10th, 2011
Ars Poetica 104, posted November 10th, 2011
Ars Poetica 103, posted November 8th, 2011
Ars Poetica 102, posted November 7th, 2011
Ars Poetica 101, posted November 6th, 2011
Ars Poetica 100, posted November 5th, 2011
Ars Poetica 99, posted November 3rd, 2011, 1 comment
Ars Poetica 98, posted November 3rd, 2011
Ars Poetica 97, posted November 3rd, 2011
Ars Poetica 96, posted November 2nd, 2011
Ars Poetica 95, posted November 2nd, 2011
Ars Poetica 94, posted November 2nd, 2011
Ars Poetica 93, posted November 1st, 2011
Ars Poetica 92, posted November 1st, 2011
Ars Poetica 91, posted November 1st, 2011
Ars Poetica 90, posted October 31st, 2011
Ars Poetica 89, posted October 31st, 2011
Ars Poetica 88, posted October 30th, 2011
Ars Poetica 87, posted October 30th, 2011, 3 comments
Ars Poetica 86, posted October 30th, 2011
Ars Poetica 85, posted October 29th, 2011
Ars Poetica 84, posted October 28th, 2011, 1 comment
Ars Poetica 83, posted October 24th, 2011
Ars Poetica 82, posted October 23rd, 2011
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