The Universe Exploding

Maybe it’s one of those things, like being astounded every night as you look up at the sky. Or maybe it’s that I grew up watching Star Wars, and Star Trek, and can still imagine there being other worlds out there, with people living on it. But either way I still love this poem, love the engratiating way the salesman is trying to sell his wares, and you the unsuspecting stranger can do nothing but gape, and be flawed by it all. Enjoy the mysteries of life, both big and small.

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The Universe Exploding

by Robert Kinsley

At the mall in Parkersburg
my son and I wander among
the displays at the Home Show
while my wife shops.
A sign in front of the furnace display,
“most efficient in the world” and I have to
stop. Soon a small crowd
gathers and the salesman starts his pitch––
“this is the one ya want to buy, no doubt about it”
he says looking straight at me, taught I suppose
to pick out one vulnerable looking
soul to make it seem more real, and I’m
caught in the spiel. “How’s it work you ask”
he says before the words leave my mouth. “Well,”
he starts looking deadly
serious, “the gas sort of forms little balls and then
explodes, hundreds of times a minute, like…”
he’s looking for words, “sort of like” he says
“the way scientists say the universe started.”
“Yea” he says, looking
skyward, hesitating a moment in his sudden
discovery. “Just think of it” he says, looking
back at me, “everytime you kick that baby on you’re
making a new universe, exploding stars, making black
holes, charting new planets,” and he laughs a little back
in his throat, like he thinks he knows something you don’t.
“Maybe” he says, “you wander down there one cold morning
to watch it happen, and you never come up.”

 

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Yesterday

Here is another fantastic poet, with another fantastic poem. Do enjoy it!
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Yesterday

by W. S. Merwin

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me.
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was no where I had to go
and nothing I had to do

Mrs. Wei on Patriotism

I discovered Hilary Tham’s Mrs. Wei poems while on the hunt for political poems. She is ingenious in her depth and scope. I hope you enjoy this one, and go searching for more.
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Mrs. Wei on Patriotism

by Hilary Tham

Here many people over-exercise
their right to free speech. Everywhere
bumper stickers shout at me: Have you
hugged your child today? I brake
for animals, Honk if you love
Jesus! We support our troops! Say No
to drugs! I am for America!
But when they want us all
to chant slogans and tie yellow
ribbons to our houses, I plant
my feet and say No.

Loyalty to one’s land should be
as natural as sap in the tree
whose roots know the earth which gives
it sustenance. It is not a hair ribbon
to run to the store to buy
when it becomes fashionable.

Mother and Child

Taken from This Strange Land, this piece is one of many that highlights the bond between a mother and child, and perhaps too even life in Jamaica. Shara is another one of the poets whose works I enjoy because she reflects so much of the relationships between people as well as the land of her birth.
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Mother and Child

by Shara McCallum

Forgive the sun for shining that day,
light glinting off the mother’s nutmeg skin,
finding beauty in the most impossible places.

Forgive the child,dead in her arms,
for running into the path of a bullet
as if running after the tail of a kite.

Forgive the mother, sending him to the shop
for scallion and thyme, pressing coins
into his palm, promising sweets on return.

Forgive the ground for absorbing his blood,
for muffling footfalls of the one
who fired the gun and fled.

Forgive the mother’s mouth, the wail
lodged in her throat, the groveling eyes
asking too late for someone to intervene.

Forgive the silence of the onlookers,
crowding to see. Forgive even History,
indifferent to grief.

Ghazal (# 2)

For those of you who are not new to this site, you will know that I like/love ghazals. I have posted another one by Agha Shahid Ali sometime last year,but I can assure you that this one is different. I hope you enjoy it.
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Ghazal

by Agha Shahid Ali

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar
–– Laurence Hope

Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight
before you agonize him in farewell tonight?

Pale hands that once loved me beside the Shalimar:
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

Those “Fabrics of Cashmere––” “to make Me beautiful––”
“Trinket”–– to gem––”Me to adorn––How––tell”––tonight?

I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates––
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.

Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;
Only we can convert the infidels tonight.

Has God’s vintage loneliness turned to vinegar?
He’s poured rust into the Sacred Well tonight.

In the heart’s veined temple all statues have been smashed.
No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.

He’s freed some fire from ice, in pity for Heaven;
he’s left open––for God––the doors of Hell tonight.

And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee––
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

Parsley

I have always been impressed by Rita Dove’s poems. Partly because I like how she explained that she discovered Sara Teasdale in her youth, before anyone had a chance to force any sort of restrictions on her. Like telling her that could tell her that Sara Teasdale was too hard for her to understand. I appreciated that, anyway here is a poem about a different place, and a different time.
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Parsley

by Rita Dove

The Cane Fields

There is a parrot imitating spring
in the palace, its feathers parsley green.
Out of the swamp the cane appears

to haunt us, and we cut it down. El General
searches for a word; he is all the world
there is. Like a parrot imitating spring,

we lie down screaming as rain punches through
and we come up green. We cannot speak an R––
out of the swamp, the cane appears

and then the mountain we call in whispers Katalina.
The children gnaw their teeth to arrowheads.
There is a parrot imitating spring.

El General has found his word: perejil.
Who says it, lives. He laughs, teeth shining
out of the swamp. The cane appears

in our dreams, lashed by wind and streaming.
And we lie down. For every drop of blood
there is a parrot imitating spring.
Out of the swamp the cane appears.

The Palace

The word the general’s chosen is parsley.
It is fall,when thoughts turn
to love and death; the general thinks
of his mother, how she died in the fall
and he planted her walking cane at the grave
and it flowered, each spring stolidly forming
four-star blossoms. The general

pulls on his boots, he stomps to
her room in the palace, the one without
curtains, the one with a parrot
in the brass ring. As he paces he wonders
Who can I kill today. And for a moment
the little knot of screams
is still. The parrot, who has traveled

all the way from Australia in an ivory
cage, is, coy as a widow, practising
spring. Ever since the morning
his mother collapsed in the kitchen
while baking skull-shaped candies
for the Day of the Dead, the general
has hated sweets. He orders pastries
brought up for the bird; they arrive

dusted with sugar on a bed of lace.
The knot in his throat starts to twitch;
he sees his boots the first day in battle
splashed with mud and urine
as a soldier falls at his feet amazed–
how stupid he looked!– at the sound
of artillery. I never thought it would sing
the soldier said, and died. Now

the general sees the fields of sugar
cane, lashed by rain and streaming.
He sees his mother’s smile, the teeth
gnawed to arrowheads. He hears
the Haitians sing without R’s
as they swing the great machetes:
Katalina, they sing, Katalina,

mi madle, mi amol en muelte. God knows
his mother was no stupid woman; she
could roll an R like a queen. Even
a parrot can roll an R! In the bare room
the bright feathers arch in a parody
of greenery, as the last pale crumbs
disappear under the blackened tongue. Someone

calls out his name in a voice
so like his mother’s a startled tear
splashes the tip of his right boot.
My mother, my love in death.
The general remembers the tiny green sprigs
men of his village wore in their capes
to honor the birth of a son. He will
order many, this time, to be killed

for a single, beautiful word.

Montage with Neon, Bok Choi, Gasoline, Lovers & Strangers

I love this poem, maybe because of all the images, or because of the idea of what rebuilding a city looks like, or maybe because I love change. This poem, like many of the other poems in Notes from the Divided Country are teeming with life. Do enjoy!

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Montage with Neon, Bok Choi, Gasoline,
Lovers & Strangers

by Suji Kwock Kim

None of the streets here has a name,
but if I’m lost
tonight I’m happy to be lost.

Ten million lanterns light the Seoul avenues
for Buddha’s Birthday,
ten million red blue green silver gold moons

burning far as the eye can see in every direction
& beyond,
“one for every spirit,”

voltage sizzling socket to socket
as thought does,
firing & firing the soul.

Lashed by wind, flying up like helium balloons
or hanging still
depending on weather,

they turn each road into an earthly River of Heaven
doubling & reversing
the river above,

though not made of much:
colored paper, glue, a few wires,
a constellation of poor facts.

I can’t help feeling giddy.
I’m drunk on neon, drunk on air,
drunk on seeing what was made

almost from nothing: if anything’s here
it was built
out of ash, out of the skull-rubble of war,

the city rising brick by brick
like a shared dream,
every bridge & pylon & girder & spar a miracle,

when half a century ago
there was nothing
but shrapnel, broken mortar-casings, corpses,

the War Memorialin Itaewon counting
MORE THAN 3 MILLION DEAD, OR MISSING––
still missed by the living, still loved beyond reason,

monument to the fact
no one can hurt you, no one kill you
like your own people.

I’ll never understand it.
I wonder about others I see on the sidewalks,
each soul fathomless––

strikers & scabs walking through Kwanghwamoon
or “Gate of Transformation by Light,”
riot police rapping nightsticks against plexiglass shields,

hawkers haggling over cellphones or silk shirts,
shaking dirt from chamae & bok choi,
chanting price after price,

fishermen cleaning tubs of cuttlefish & squid,
stripping copper carp,
lifting eels or green turtles dripping from tanks,

vendors setting up pojangmachas
to cook charred silkworms, broiled sparrows,
frying sesame leaves & mung-bean pancakes,

hunyak peddlers calling out names of cures
for sickness or love––
crushed bees, snake bile, ground deer antler, chrysanthemum root,

the grocer who calls me “daughter” because I look like her,
for she has long since left home,
bus drivers hurtling past in a blast of diesel-fumes,

dispatchers shouting the names of stations,
lovers so tender with each other
I hold my breath,

men with hair the color of scallion root
playing paduk, or Go,
old enough to have stolen overcoats & shoes from corpses,

whose spirits could not be broken,
whose every breath seems to say:
after things turned to their worst, we began again,

but may you never see what we saw,
may you never do what we’ve done,
may you never remember & may you never forget.

The Floral Apron

Depending on where you go your perspective of yourself, and other people’s perspective of you may shift and change. I know what it is like to travel abroad and be seen as an immigrant. Maybe this is why this poem always seems to speak tome. Because here Chin focuses on the importance of tradition.
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The Floral Apron

by Marilyn Chin

The woman wore a floral apron around her
neck,
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”

She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as a child’s nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.

Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion
fogged our senses
and we absolved her for that moment’s
barbarism.
Then, she, an elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the Asian plight.

And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
that floral apron.

If

This is one of the most inspirational poems that I have found that tells you how to be. Guidance for life, if you will. I hope you enjoy it!
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If

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about don’t deal in lies;
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
Yet don’t look too good nor talk too wise;
If you can dream and not make dreams your master.
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,
And lose and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after they have gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the will which says to them, “Hold on”;
If you can mix with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or, walk with kings, nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With 60 seconds’ worth of distance run,
Then yours is the world and everything that’s in it,
And what’s more––you’ll be a Man, My son!

The Road Not Taken

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The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged into a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden back.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

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The Tyger

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The Tyger (from Songs of Experience)

by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

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Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

This next poem needs no introduction. No matter how young or old you are, I am sure that you have heard these words at least once. As we will all have to face death, in the end. And yet for me the poem also resonates on a different dimension. It reminds me to let my voice ring out into the ether…That we as writers must write, must add our words to the cannon. I hope it does the same for you…

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Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Listeners

Today we kick off a month of poetry with Walter de la Mare’s classic poem, The Listeners. It was one of the first poems I remember reading and falling in love with as a child. That eerie silence in the house intrigued me before Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado or The Fall of the House of Usher. Anyway, read it! See for yourself, if you haven’t already.

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The Listeners

by Walter de la Mare

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grass
Of the forest’s ferny floor;
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Harkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder,and lifted his head:-
“Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

 

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Writing Prompt # 60

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One poem I’ve often loved hearing again and again is William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow. If you’re not familiar with it, read it and see. Write something of your own.

W.P. # 60   Try your hand at a poem.

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Google Search Image –                William Carlos Williams