The Wake Up Call

Jimmy Pappas was instrumental in introducing me to a cadre of wonderful poets through Goodreads who commiserate, critique one another’s work, and share common goals in our writing.  Jimmy is a Vietnam vet who will publish two books of poetry this year about his time in Vietnam.  Jimmy told me the poem I chose to share is one of the first ones he published.  You can learn more about Jimmy Pappas and his poetry here.

 

When it was time
to wake me up
to go fishing,

he stood at the end
of the bed and held
my foot in his hands

as if it were a piece
of crystal, the way
he must have done

when I was a baby,
but I was too tired
to wake up and

too young to understand
how much he needed
me to be his son.

– Jimmy Pappas
First published in Poetry Breakfast

Faux Pas (false step)

“. . .no two people had ever been farther apart. ‘

Mark Shirey grapples with both unrequited love and cultural norms in this sensitive, introspective poem.  Mark is a member of my poetry workshop group which has met every other Saturday morning for 3 1/2 years.

 

I bought her a graduation gift at the Art Museum store –
a long, gold necklace that would glow on her brown skin
and follow her neck in graceful twirling arcs.
I wished the nights in the computer lab would never end,
spent with my beautiful Indian dancing friend.
When she went to India on a semester break, I looked at the moon
and thought no two people had ever been farther apart.
When she and her lily-white beau took a break, she was mine for a week.
When they got back together, she’d return to my mind forever.
I put the wrapped box on the table with other gifts.
Among the guests, saris and bindis, I danced and mingled.
I asked, “How do you tell which ones are single?”
“The married ones wear long, gold chains given to them by their husbands.”

– Mark Shirey

Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem

“. . .why our marriage might work.”

Poets have to be careful when writing about love, lest it become an eye-rolling exercise for their readers.  I think Matthew Olzmann succeeds in this “list poem” about the attributes of the woman he loves.  You can read more about Olzmann’s work here.

 

Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
Because you think swans are overrated.
Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
Because you underline everything you read, and circle
the things you think are important, and put stars next
to the things you think I should think are important,
and write notes in the margins about all the people
you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
Because you make that pork recipe you found
in the Frida Kahlo Cookbook. Because when you read
that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
over the windows, you still believe someone outside
can see you. And one day five summers ago,
when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
which you paid for with your last damn dime
because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

– Matthew Olzmann
First published in Rattle

P.S. If you don’t subscribe to Rattle or at least to the poems that appear every day on their blog, you’re missing some of the best contemporary poetry available today.  Check it out.

The Cottage

“. . . The smell of earth turned by a trowel.”

Since Poetry Breakfast was kind enough to publish another of my poems today, I’m going to take time out of the month of poets I admire to put it here on my blog too.  I hope you’ll stop by and take a look at the Poetry Breakfast site.  One of my favorites.

 

I’ve grown quiet here. My mind
has opened to woodsong
and the smell of earth turned
by a trowel.

I enjoy solitude, even when regrets
or the throb of an old lover happen by.
Sometimes I invite them in, make
a ritual of teacups on starched linen,
a silver server for the scones.
We reminisce ’til shadows trace
across the floor, call them away.

Afterwards, I tidy up, wipe away
drops spilled in the pouring. I save
the leftovers though they’re getting stale.
I may crumble them on the porch rail
tomorrow for sparrows
before I garden.

– Sarah Russell
 First published in Poetry Breakfast

War Poetry

Iranian poet Nooshin Azadi’s work is simply elegant. You can find more of her poetry and her beautiful photography here.  An interview about her book written with Francis Scudellari is worthwhile reading too.

write me
a poem
in which
all birds
are prisoners
of love
and the only bloody war
is between
my fingers
and the thorns
of the rose
i’m offering
to my beloved

Nooshin Azadi

Humoresque

One more from Edna St. Vincent Millay before moving back to modern poets.  As a teenager, when I read (and memorized) many of her poems, I loved her dark side.  Here’s one of my favorites.

“Heaven bless the babe,” they said.
“What queer books she must have read!”
(Love, by whom I was beguiled,
Grant I may not bear a child!)

“Little does she guess today
What the world may be,” they say.
(Snow, drift deep and cover
Till the spring my murdered lover!)

– Edna St. Vincent Millay
Published in The Dial, 1918

Recuerdo

“… the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.”

When I started writing poems in high school, I discovered and fell in love with the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I still have the book of her collected poems I received from my folks one Christmas.  Here is an early poem of hers, and one my favorites,  Ah, young love…

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

– Edna St, Vincent Millay
From  A Few Figs From Thistles 

Old Photographs

Gabeba Baderoon is a South African poet who teaches at Penn State in Women’s Studies and African Studies.  I love to go to her readings.  They are always evenings of insight and passion.  This poem is from her newest book of poetry.  You can learn more about Gabeba through this great article about her.

Old Photographs

On my desk is a photograph of you
taken by the woman who loved you then.

In some photos her shadow falls
in the foreground.  In this one,
her body is not that far from yours.

Did you hold your head that way
because she loved it?

She is not invisible, not
my enemy, nor even the past.
I think I love the things she loved.

Of all your old photographs, I wanted
this one for its becoming.  I think
you were starting to turn your head a little,
your eyes looking slightly to the side.

Was this the beginning of leaving?

– Gabeba Baderoon
  Previously published in A Hundred Silences

 

The Weight

One drunken night he lay on the coach road and she lay beside him.

“The Weight” is by my friend Ryan Stone who lives in Melbourne, Australia.  More of his fine poetry can be found at Days of Stone.

Faerie Lights on the Dark Road by Faustus-Faunus

One drunken night, he lay on the coach road
and she lay beside him. He pictured a truck
descending – wobbling around corners,
gaining momentum. They spoke about crushes,

first kisses. He told her of an older woman
who’d stolen a thing he couldn’t replace.
He tried to describe the weight of lost things.
She listened until he stopped,
until I stopped

hiding behind he. I felt small,
watching the cosmos churn
while I lay on the coach road
one summer night, speaking
of big things
and nothing.

Ryan Stone
First published in Algebra of Owls
Photo:  “Fairie Lights on the Dark Road”
by Faustus Faunus

PS  New prompts are up on the Prompts page.