Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Last Marsh Poem


I’ve been awhile away. They’ve mown the summer meadow.
Apple trees emerge beside the winter-tumbled granite wall

where morning glories run, as if in search of a shingled porch
and the trellis they once climbed. I’ve been awhile away.

I used to sit on the last of the narrow gauge’s railroad ties
fallen from the roadside into the sand. It’s streaked more

since the spring, now sepia and coppery-gold as it sinks
deeper into the sea grass. Near the tiny marina, the town

has placed a platform, bolting down a memorial bench 
for the Tiernans, Arthur and Grace, whom I never knew. 

A late sharp east wind herds the clouds like a collie, 
their woolly shoulders colliding in confusion, turning 

the current navy, then bright as they stumble and race 
over hummocks and crab holes. I’ve seen a world here:

the widowed swan, circling her dark reflection in a pool;
snowy egrets’ yellow beaks nervously plucking the flats;

a Great Blue Heron, almost within reach, considering me,
before lifting its wide Prussian blue and slate-colored wings

and long stalk legs straight out behind it, the black toes 
delicately pointed as the first ballet slippers of a child.

I’ve seen a hillside, burning; The Madonna of the Universe;
heard the keen, elusive aria of the red-winged blackbird

as it suddenly flicked its way to where Evy lies. I’ve seen
gulls on patrol; salt hay that gleamed in the sargassos of June

lie down heat-struck in August, whispering with thirst.
I’ve eavesdropped on the gossip of phragmites and sumac.

I’ve watched winter rain rattling the waves out to sea, the tide
leaving its lace as an offering at my feet. I’ve been awhile away.

My little marsh. I won’t come back because you’ve filled me. 
The red king will never win his silver-haired mistress, the moon.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

After Cumae


The Sibyl, singing out prophecies under her breath, 
inscribed them on sun-hammered oak leaves 
and laid their gold in her open mouth 
for the wind to blow away 
since no one in that place could read, 
and cast aside any syllable she sang. 

She dreamt God asked her what she wished for most. 
With her hand, she held up sand and said, 
‘Let me be a poet and live for as long 
as the number of grains I hold.”  

Those who raised her sought 
more than her silence. It grew harder
to eat or sleep. She withered down 
to nothing in their cave, no more than 
the memory of an oak leaf 
skittering across yellow grass.

They hung her whittled carapace 
in a bottle in the trees, and children 
came to poke her with sticks, screaming: 
“Sibyl, Sibyl, what do you want?” 
“I want to die,” she said.

When those who thought her already dead 
discovered she still had her voice, 
they broke her finger bones one by one 
and made a cunning cricket cage 
which they nailed to the rafters 
and forgot her again, not hearing an outcry,

forgetting too that elsewhere crickets 
are caught and kept exactly for their singing--
in cages set on pillows, they chirp through ivory bars
to comfort emperors’ concubines, 
still awake, behind theirs silken ones.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Little Cottage


The day I wed silence, the bells were stopped in the campanile,
the flut-flut of the candles were extinguished, the doves

on the red-tiled roof tucked their beaks under their wings,
even their pinfeathers held down by the light of the eclipse.

Held back, the music, but for the note of my ring as I grasped
the goblet to sip the dark wine, my lips speaking softly

the unalterable vows. The shadow of a bishop in his crozier 
and miter leaned over to clip off my hair with his golden shears.

I lifted my arms heavenward for the linen smock, the 'little cottage' 
of the chasuble which I will never abandon. The Virgin in her lunette 

shifted the Babe on her hip and leaned down to put 
the Muse's chrism on my mouth, to both bless and seal it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

To My Readers

I am going to be retiring from Tuesday Poem this week and will be closing this blog on June 5, 2012.

I hope those of you who came here found some pleasure in reading my poems.

Thank you all for your kind, thoughtful and perceptive comments during these past two years.

Wishing you all the best,


Monday, May 7, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Forecast by Melissa Green


Raw, Dark, Dank, & Fog. Surely, the names of lawyers or Tyburn executioners
Dickens might have invented. Let’s say, Whipstone Raw. Pinchbeck Dark.

Frogspittle Dank. Cuffington Fogg. This giddy fever makes me laugh out loud.
Whoever they are, they louring over my bedposts now, one knotting rope

for a noose, another shaking open the hood, the third hammering the last
of the scaffold, the fourth assaulting the trap-door with his worn out boots.

In my dreamy state, I don’t seem to mind. It’ll be no more than I deserve
for all my transgressions. They drag me by my muddy shift toward daylight.

I blink in the sun. But when I step barefoot onto the warm splintery wood,
I suddenly pity my poor body, which instigated no trouble in this world,

my innocent foot walking toward its death at the hinge. Somehow worse
than dying is what will certainly follow, and here I sink to my knees:

the autopsy--carving and cracking open my ribs by technicians inured
to human fluids, organs, stringy tendons, fat. I’ll float above the chilled

aluminum table. There’ll be no celestial light beckoning home my soul,
only the swinging shade like a censer over their scalps, the kind of lamp

my father kept low like a tent on a corrugated fence of baby chicks, once
holding me up under it to hear one feathery heart. I won’t be warm again.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesday Poeom--A Song on the End of the World by Czesław Miłosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world.
There will be no other end of the world.
Czesław Miłosz
Warsaw, 1944

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Waiting for Evy by Melissa Green


                  in memory of EM
Across a cream-colored raw silk sky,
the deeply booming fog horn seems to mourn
the ending of the day, ribbons and veils
of chiffon blowing through October’s bloody leaves,
torn from laughing brides whose white limousines
have passed, fog streaming in my summer screens like gauze.
Beyond the church spires through the dusk
there is an answering campanile,
a lighthouse in Boston Harbor,
on an island, on a rock pile, with peeling shakes
and geraniums by the door without its beam alight.
I know all its windows are open.
A rag rug, a table, thickly-painted, beside
the trundle bed. On it are salt-scented,
surf-colored sheets, hemmed in scallop shells,
waiting for a woman to come back from the sea.
Let me tell you how it happened:
she put her palms together to pray, paused,
then plunged into the breakers,
learning to breathe underwater
though it came hard, her ear
turning abalone, the depths disheveling
her quicksilver nightdress as she kicked
in her diving down and vanishing.
She is going to lie on the Atlantic’s deepest altar--
to be unmade--to be colonized again with microscopic pearls,
to be reborn in the beating of the tides,
rhythms which will start up her burdened heart
when the metamorphosis is over.
Moon, keep track of her.
Pebbles chatter as the riptide pulls back stones,
gulls on the seawall pacing anxiously and muttering.
I’m here until darkfall, dawn, day--as long as it takes,
pressing my toes in her freezing Lethe underfoot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Earth by Czesław Miłosz

My sweet European homeland,
A butterfly lighting on your flowers stains its wings 
                                             with blood,
Blood gathers in the mouths of tulips,
Shines, star-like, inside a morning glory
And washes the grains of wheat.
Your people warm their hands
At the funeral candle of a primrose
And hear on the fields the wind howling
In the cannons ready to be fired.

You are a land where it’s no shame to suffer
For one is served here a glass of bitter liquor
With lees, the poison of centuries.
On your broken evening of wet leaves,
By the waters that carry the rust
Of centurions’ sunken armor,
At the foot of blasted towers,
In the shadow of the spans like aqueducts,
Under the quiet canopy of an owl’s wings.
A red poppy, touched by the ice of tears.
Czesław Miłosz
Washington, DC, 1949

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Last Things by Melissa Green

It passeth understanding, but the light will go. At the bedside, Memory will
rise, pure as an abbess, and escort her flesh and blood from the room. None
will look back, for they have already forgotten you. The abyss like a nurse
will press a gauze on your eyes to quench them, and they will be quenched. 
The bones that faithfully held you will be dismantled, surrender to sleep. 
Skin that was so sweet in life to kiss will unwrap its parchment cocoon, 
weightless as a spider’s gossamer the slightest breath of air will blow away. 
The ear’s tympanum by an angel’s whisper will eternally be sealed with wax.
The lips, having lost all its words, will fall open, unsewn, your very name 
now only a chimera. Somewhere the earth is waiting, holding its breath.
Will your beliefs buoy you on clouds? Your incandescent essence find the place
in a galaxy of stars in which to joyfully merge? What if the heart still fights
for one more minute, one more glimpse of day, and the self, the final priceless spark, 
which is laboring so hard not to be extinguished, is forever put out, put out


Don't forget to click on the Tuesday Poem quill link above in order to read
the beautiful birthday poem that is evolving in order to celebrate our second
year--poets from all over the world are adding line by line to this endeavor,
rather the way a gorgeous coral reef is made.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tuesday Poem--To Poetry by Melissa Green

I have not forgotten you. You were taken. Suddenly, terribly, Eros kissed me
on the mouth, inhaled my simple songs, and from his throat roared out
a fusillade of black notes, crows that raced and pierced the thunderheads.
It left me mute, violent hoof prints to the heart as when one falls in love, 
passion filling me with thorns of light. Wildfires that blazed for no one.
My hands awoke. I could not stop their fury, their flurry, their hurried need,
a hurt and hunger so fierce, my hair turned white as weave of the pages
I drew to me, pristine except where I left my mark: pen, brushes, paint.
I hardly sleep now, night after night, and when mornings come, I reach up
and break off a piece of the sun to feed on, its taste a burning on my tongue,
of crimson, violet, viridian, ultramarine. Ask for me and you will find me 
changed, utterly new. My hands, now taloned, are sleek white birds in flight.

*     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
Tuesday Poem is celebrating its 2nd birthday this month. Please click on the feather quill at the top of this page to be brought to the hub of the blog, with a sidebar of poets and their poems on the right-hand side, and in the center of the page, appearing as if by magic, a poem written communally with each writer adding a fresh line to those that have come before it. Mid-month, this new Happy Birthday Tuesday Poem will be finished!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Little Lost Followers

I'm sorry--I seem to have lost my Followers. I didn't toss you out, rest assured. How does one fix these damned things?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Gift by Czesław Miłosz

A day so happy.

Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.

Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.

There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.

I knew no one worth my envying him.

Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.

To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.

In my body I felt no pain.

When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.
Czesław Miłosz

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Statue of a Couple by Czesław Miłosz

I seem to be so in love with Miłosz these days, I can't help but keep posting. This poem moved me almost to tears when I first read it twenty years ago, and I haven't forgotten a bit of it.

Your hand, my wonder, is now icy cold.
The purest light of the celestial dome
has burned me through. And now, we are
as still still plains lying in darkness,
as two black banks of a frozen stream
in the chasm of the world.
Our hair combed back is carved in wood,
the moon walks over our ebony shoulders.
A distant cockcrow, the night goes by, silent.
Rich is the rime of love, withered the dowry.
Where are you, living in what depths of time,
love, stepping down into what waters,
now, when the frost of our voiceless lips
does not fend off the divine fires?
In a forest of clouds, of foam, and of silver
we live, caressing lands under our feet.
And we are wielding the might of a dark scepter
to earn oblivion.
My love, your breast cut through by a chisel
knows nothing anymore of what it was.
Of clouds at dawn, of angers at daybreak,
of shadows in springtime it has no remembrance.
And you have led me, as once an angel led
Tobias, onto the rusty marshes of Lombardy.
But a day came when a sign frightened you,
a stigma of golden measure.
With a scream, with immobile fear in your thin hands
you fell into a pit that ashes lie over,
where neither northern firs nor Italian yews
could protect our ancient bed of lovers.
What was it, what is it, what will it be--
we filled the world with our cry and calling.
The dawn is back, the red moon set,
do we know now? In a heavy ship
A helmsman comes, throws a silken rope
and binds us tightly to each other,
then he pours on friends, once enemies,
a handful of snow.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tuesday Poem--To the River by Zbigniew Herbert

River--hourglass of water metaphor of eternity

I enter you more and more changed

so I could be a cloud a fish or rock

while you are the same like a clock that measures

the metamorphoses of the body and descents of the spirit

slow disintegration of tissues and love

I who am born of clay

want to be your pupil

and learn the spring the Olympian heart

o cool torch rustling column

bedrock of my faith and my despair

river teach me stubbornness and endurance

so in the last hour I become worthy

of rest in the shade of the great delta

in the holy triangle of the beginning and of the end.

Zbigniew Herbert
(translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tuesday Poem--After Paradise by Czesław Miłosz

Don’t run anymore. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other
Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes
On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean
Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticoes
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.
Czesław Miłosz

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

Sonnet XVII
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or 
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Pablo Neruda   (1950)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Penniless Lovers by Eugenio de Andrade

They had faces open to whoever passed.
They had legends and myths
and a chill in the heart.
They had gardens where the moon strolled
hand in hand with the water.
They had an angel of stone for a brother.
They had like everyone
the miracle of the every day
dripping from the roofs;
and golden eyes
glowing with
a wilderness of dreams.
They were hungry and thirsty like animals,
and there was silence
around their steps.
But at every gesture they made,
a bird was born from their fingers
and, dazzled, vanished into space.
Eugenio de Andrade
(trans. from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tuesday Poem--A Blessing by James Wright

This is probably James Wright's most well-known poem.

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
James Wright

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Incantation by Czeslaw Miłosz

Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,
No sentence or banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal idea in language,
And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice
With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are,
Is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
It does not know Jew from Greek or slave from master,
Giving us the estate of the world to manage.
It saves austere and transparent phrases
From the filthy discord of tortured words.
It says that everything is new under the sun.
Opens the congealed fist of the past.
Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia
and poetry, her ally in the service of the good.
As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth,
The news was brought to the mountain by a unicorn and an echo.
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.
Czeslaw Miłosz
Berkeley, 1969