January 28, 2010


by James Tate

A little bookstore used to call to me.
Eagerly I would go to it
hungry for the news
and the sure friendship.
It never failed to provide me
with whatever I needed.
Bookstore with a donkey in its heart,
bookstore full of clouds and
sometimes lightning, showers.
Books just in from Australia,
books by madmen and giants.
Toucans would alight on my stovepipe hat
and solve mysteries with a few chosen words.
Picasso would appear in a kimono
requesting a discount, and then
laugh at his own joke.
Little bookstore with its belly
full of wisdom and confetti,
with eyebrows of wildflowers--
and customers from Denmark and Japan,
New York and California, psychics
and lawyers, clergymen and hitchhikers,
the wan, the strong, the crazy,
all needing books, needing directions,
needing a friend, or a place to sit down.
But then one day the shelves began to empty
and a hush fell over the store.
No new books arrived.
When the dying was done,
only a fragile, tattered thing remained,
and I haven't the heart to name it.

January 25, 2010

Why Are Your Poems So Dark?

by Linda Pastan

Isn't the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn't the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn't banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
"Why are you sad so often?"

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.

January 14, 2010

Morning Poem

by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches--
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead--
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging--

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted--

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

January 07, 2010

The Ark Upon His Shoulders

by Forrest Gander

My husband did all this.                 We used to live
in a rambling kind of house      with gossipy verandas.
Then he bought a stove, an iron stove      with a reservoir to it.
He always insisted it was bad luck      to come in that door
and go out the other. It's bad luck      to pay back salt
if you borrow it.         To the day he died
he smelled        pulled up from the dirt. He worked
the Norfolk Southern forty years        walking on top
of freight trains. I've seen him       up there
and the wind just blowing--       you could see the wind
blowing his clothes.
                    Our second house                           he built it.
Cut me a yard broom      from dogwood bushes,
tied in three places. Hogs      squealed under the floorboards
in winter--you could see one      through the cracks.
He had something he said      to hush them.
Come up the porch steps      arms full of lightwood.
In those days      we drank good old cool water
out of the well--cool and    put some syrup in it
and stir it up      and drink it right along
with our dinner. The summers were      so hot you saw
little devils      twizzling out in front of you.
He called them      lazy jacks. It was the heat.
Listen at that bird,      he'd say. It's telling us,
Love one another. He caught      a ride back
from town with seeds and a hoop      of greasy cheese and crackers and
sardines and light      bread. He carried that umbrella
over me and I          would have his hat walking to church.
We lost the first one.        The midwife came late, she used dirt-
dauber tea for my pains.        He tried telling me
it wasn't any death owl, it was     a ordinary hoot owl outside
the house. But I tied a knot     in my sheet
so it wouldn't quiver.        I was in such trouble,
he petted me a lot. Three days       labor he attended me
how a dragonfly hovers       over water in the clear sun.
The next year we had a beautiful        girl baby, Ruthie.
Ruthie, after my mother.      Towards the end,
he was a bit thick-listed.        I never yelled though, he read my lips.
When the katydid      chirps, I miss him
saying there'll be forty days until frost.        Ones who were in trouble
they always       sought him out. Listen
at that bird, he'd say.
The things he knew        how to do he did them.

January 05, 2010


by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.