Interlude: Other People's Poetry

The Arrival of the Bee Box
I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

-Sylvia Plath

photograph by Chris Lopez


Red Velvet

The cake collapsed. It toppled slowly,
so slow that at first we did not hear the thick tectonic slide,
or see the deep fissure emerging.
It had been five hours since we rolled up our sleeves
and applied our baking faces. Sarah was still
hung over from some church festival
or another, and I had spent the morning digging through cardboard boxes
to find the pans. We were wilted in the rising sunlight
but applied ourselves gamely. And here was this catastrophe,
this cave-in, this horror of a birthday surprise. The cake slid sensuously
toward the floor.

I called you in,
like I did when the floor was on fire in our first apartment. “Honey?”
I said. It might not have been urgent enough. “You probably should see this.”
The top layer of cake accelerated and we remained rooted to the spot.
Years ago the old me watched the flames bingeing on linoleum tiles,
my lips parted, my arms slack.

photograph by flickr user in my shoes


From: roxanne@gmail.com

Heartsick boys wooed me wildly with your words.
It was you I loved, unknowing--

I ask you the same question now
a thousand times over, my own tongue
faltering into space, your silences as long
as nos.

photograph by Sarah Walker


House Sitting, Mid-July

My vision swims.
Is this, then, what madness is--doing things
without knowing the reason why? I am waist-
deep in the swimming pool,
half-stiff in my work clothes. The hem of my blouse
darkens with chlorine. Behind me the little black dog watches,
concerned, looking for someone
to notify.

The heaviest lavender buds have fallen to the bricks
on the patio, but the bees in their lustful quest
pass them up.
The sodden bodies of impatiens bob by.
There are no mosquitoes.
In this unknowing moment I am sure
my blood has the same heat
as the sunset air, the bathwater-warm clear water,
the soft eternity.


Gifts for the Dead

It is, I'm afraid, far less noble
than it sounds. The artfully cracked dish
we brought back from Japan still wears
its department-store bow; your grandmother's death
came before Christmas.

And once, ten years after we buried him,
the Yiddish Book Center wrote my grandpa
for money. "You give them these," my grandma murmured,
pressing yellowed paperbacks
into my arms.
Her funeral was only nine months later,
and still the books hang like lead weights
on my shelf.

They glitter, the secret trophies of our failures:
the tasteful sympathy cards we never sent,
the half-finished notebook pages crisp
with expired declarations of love.
We are running out of space.

photograph by flickr user bitzi


Interlude: Other People's Poetry

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look'd sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'

Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
When thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, 'The night is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'

Upon the middle of the night,
Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
From the dark fen the oxen's low
Came to her: without hope of change,
In sleep she seem'd to walk forlorn,
Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
She only said, 'The day is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'

About a stone-cast from the wall
A sluice with blacken'd waters slept,
And o'er it many, round and small,
The cluster'd marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
All silver-green with gnarl├Ęd bark:
For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray.
She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'

And ever when the moon was low,
And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
And wild winds bound within their cell,
The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
She only said, 'The night is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'

All day within the dreamy house,
The doors upon their hinges creak'd;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse
Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek'd,
Or from the crevice peer'd about.
Old faces glimmer'd thro' the doors,
Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices call'd her from without.
She only said, 'My life is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,'
I would that I were dead!'

The sparrow's chirrup on the roof,
The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
Then, said she, 'I am very dreary,
He will not come,' she said;
She wept, 'I am aweary, aweary,
O God, that I were dead!'

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1830

Respect it though I might, Tennyson's poetry typically does not reach out and touch me the way Mariana did today. I've been listening to Tori Amos' song of the same name on a continuous loop all day long; something about the serpentine piano, like the deepest shelves of the ocean, and her voice, her refusal to let the ghost die, has stirred the bones in my fingers.


The Fourth of July

for everyone who writes

Today, to me, you are Fitzgerald,
and I know I've just got Gatsby on the brain but you,
you, my love, and your swirling clouds of the Hamptons--
there is none who can match you.

That glowing shape in my chest inflates
with your unwitting touch, you
could not know just how bare my shores lie
when your high tides have gone.

So much is wrong, here, everywhere,
at the bottom of the coffee cup, at the top
of the apartment building--but the aloe
of your voice will cool the burns of even the sun

photograph by Todd Atteberry


On Blogging, In Gratitude

Small birds, all of us,
chirping without aim. And when
the breeze parts the branches
we discover one another, fat with song,
blinded by the sudden sunshine.

photograph by Daniel James


Things Going Down

What have I been doing with my time? Where is all the new poetry? What occupies every little bit of my brainspace? The answer lies here.

It isn't quite finished yet, but it is going to be a gorgeous, gorgeous book.

More poetry to come soon. I swear.

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