Ghosts

Not exactly. Something like breath on your cheek
or an aftertaste of summer, years ago; one
two metallic notes with the cadence of a name;
silverfish throwing your reflection off a beat.
Or a peony petal blown onto your path.

I don’t think so. The children know.
They breath ghosts into January
that stand for the split second
it takes to take us in, and then they’re off
as though released, like figments of the air.

Vona Groake

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Before Summer Rain

Suddenly, from all the green around you,
something – you don’t know what – has disappeared;
you feel it creeping closer to the window,
in total silence. From the nearby wood

you hear the urgent whistling of a plover,
reminding you of someone’s St. Jerome:
so much solitude and passion come
from that one voice, whose fierce request the downpour

will grant. The walls, with their ancient portraits, glide
away from us, cautiously, as though
they weren’t supposed to hear what we are saying.

And reflected on the faded tapestries now:
the chill uncertain sunlight of those long
childhood hours when you were so afraid.

Rainer Maria Rilke

That Day

This is the desk I sit at
and this is the desk where I love you too much
and this is the typewriter that sits before me
where yesterday only your body sat before me
with its shoulders gathered in like a Greek chorus,
with its tongue like a king making up the rules as he goes,
with its tongue quite openly like a cat lapping milk,
with its tongue – both of us coiled in its slippery life.
That was yesterday, that day.

That was the day of your tongue,
your tongue that came from your lips,
two openers, half animals, half birds
caught in the doorway of your heart.
That was the day I followed the kings rules,
passing by your red veins and your blue veins,
my hands down your backbone, down quick like a firepole,
hands between legs where you display your inner knowledge,
where diamond mines are buried and come forth to bury,
come forth more sudden than some reconstructed city.
It is complete within seconds, that monument.
The blood runs underground yet brings forth a tower.
A multitude should gather for such an edifice.
For a miracle one stands in line and throws confetti.
Surely The Press is here looking for headlines.
Surely someone should carry a banner on the sidewalk.
If a bridge is constructed doesn’t the mayor cut a ribbon?
If a phenomenon arrives shouldn’t the Magi come bearing gifts?
Yesterday was the day I bore gifts for your gift
and came from the valley to meet you on the pavement.
That was yesterday, that day.

That was the day of your face,
your face after love, close to the pillow, a lullaby.
Half asleep beside me letting the old fashioned rocker stop,
our breath became one, became a child-breath together,
while my fingers drew little o’s on your shut eyes,
while my fingers drew little smiles on your mouth,
while I drew I LOVE YOU on your chest and its drummer
and whispered, ‘Wake up!’ and you mumbled in your sleep,
‘Sh. We’re driving to Cape Cod. We’re heading for the Bourne
Bridge. We’re circling around the Bourne Circle.’ Bourne!
Then I knew you in your dream and prayed of our time
that I would be pierced and you would take root in me
and that I might bring forth your born, might bear
the you or the ghost of you in my little household.
Yesterday I did not want to be borrowed
but this is the typewriter that sits before me
and live is where yesterday is at.

Anne Sexton

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Therefore,
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

James Wright

Hermitage

What grew there grew in tangled
ways, minor thrivings of thorntrees, shocked
cacti, tumbleweeds maddening
past in the cages of themselves, everywhere a sense of
sharpness and thwartedness, he the last
twisted try of it all. Light meant
work. He honed
a little horizon of iron and dawn,
bowed all day over acres of adamant
flint as if he were sowing sparks. He found
shells brittling back towards their sea,
leaves and twigs more sun
than themselves, and a thousand other fragments
eternity was tugging at,
and wrought it all into a tenuous, tenacious form
as if he were founding ruins –
a man who himself seemed half born,
half hewn, his skin mapped
with damage, sweat slicking the juts and
cliffs of flesh, eyes so like the sky
he seemed at once all-seeing and all skull.
What did he ask of us, who did not once
acknowledge us, came not once among us,
thogh we woke to footprints
scalding our lawns, a leprosy
of emptiness gone through all our goods?
What covenant did he keep or rage
to break, his shadow flickering
ceaselessly beside him and the distance stricken
with waves as if some bell of being itself
had sounded? He struck
rock and the rootless dust down to a clay that gave
and gave until he was altogether
underground, smoldering
into sleep, worms of dreams
working under his brow. He climbed
to the only rise there was, the cleft
of rock where the huge beehive hung
like nature’s brain, suffering himself
to taste its sweetness. He wrung
from time a time to vanish
back into the sheer
shells and the strict mesquites, the heat-cracked
creekbed and the needless weeds, leaving us
to sift the glorious
ash of his existence, like a burned sermon.

Christian Wiman

The Whale Party

Tonight you told me the story
Of a place called Bolinas
Of The Whale Party…
Of white, tusk archways that once built a living house
And sheltered a soul, mere toothpicks and moth wings
to hold,
A being that could soar sea-cross, split stateside waves
In clean clam-halves without, necessarily, a butterfly’s
breath,
A being born pushing aquatic, pushing from mother water
within to
Mother water without.
Soundless soft entry to life, not like ours
Never broken by a strict hand or the stench of air.

Tonight you told me the story
Of a place called Bolinas
Of The Whale Party…
And I thought
Of that endless roping in of life, that destined luring of her
Back to the before.
Of her last breaths alone on a beach
Somewhere in California.
Like so much washed up debris, but not forgotten
Born deep from the sea and buried deep to the ground,
By hands that still haven’t forgotten
What we’ve always essentially known.
By hands that hoisted, and rerigged her a year later
And lips that sipped the blood of the Other in celebration of
Her,
With no less grandeur, or pomp of circumstance but
This time with guiltless pleasure.
And eyes that devoutly bathed the clean bones that were
now her
With wonder and lust and sorrow for what was.

Tonight you told me the story
Of a place called Bolinas
Of The Whale Party…

And tonight I walked with that story,
And the same rain that fed that same sea through
That City, only a bridge away
But so much farther than thirty small miles
Walked with that story, buried deep in the hump of me
Pressing hard on these bones, this skin that holds,
A smaller, less important edifice
Whose passing far fewer will gather one day to celebrate.
And I faltered on the crest of laughter
And wails.

Marlo Bester-Sproul

The Nests


for Kathryn

You ask again about the nests – the wren’s
hung in the ivy above the broken pier,
a goldcrest’s low in the privet,
the robin’s safe in a clump of pampas.
And below the Lane Gate coal tits
have build in the hollow post.
If you run oyur hand up the damp shaft
you’ll find the spot, where the metal is warm.
They lead us away from the house,
under the barbed wire and down the lane to the Long Field.
We’ll keep in the lee of the ditch for shelter.
Overhead a mistle thrush stirs the hawthorn,
as out in the wind the larks have settled
in cups of grass-corn for the night.
When we cross to the Glens, a snipe catapults
from the rushes close by your feet.
Now we approach the wall-dark of the wood
and hear within the wounded call of an owl.
We come in due course to a river, where I lie face down
on your surface, the rain soft on my spine.

Maurice Riordan

I marveled at how generally I was aided

– the autobiography of Charles Darwin

I marvel at how generally
I am aided, how frequently
the availability of help
is demonstrated. I’ve had
unbridgeable distances collapse
and opposite objects coalesce
enough to think duress itself
may be a prayer. Perhaps not chance,
but need selects; and desperation
works upon giraffes until their necks
can reach the necessary branch.
If so, help alters; makes seven vertebrae
go farther in the living generation;
help coming from us, not from the fathers
not to the children.

Kay Ryan