Hart Crane

Hart Crane was one of my favorite poets when I was a teenager. I used to wander around reciting his musical poems aloud. His most famous poem is “To Brooklyn Bridge.” Now he seems almost unnoticed, so I thought I’d post one of his that I remember. I especially love the last four lines.

Island Quarry

Square sheets — they saw the marble into
Flat slabs there at the marble quarry
At the turning of the road arond the roots of the mountain
Where the straight road would seem to ply below the stone, that fierce
Profile of marble spiked with yonder
Palms against the sunset’s towering sea, and maybe
Against mankind.

It is at times —  In dusk it is at times as though this island lifted, floated
In Indian baths. At Cuban dusk the eyes
Walking the straight road toward thunder —
This dry road silvering toward file shadow of file quarry
— It is at times as though the eyes burned hard and glad
And did not take the goat path quivering to the right.
Wide of the mountain — thence to tears and sleep —
But went on into marble that does not weep.

Hart Crane



I saw this poem in Poetry Daily a few weeks ago. I love especially the lines “For you / have been the sand to your own blaze.” It says so much, so efficiently. Larry did a broadside of  Adam Zagajewski’s poem, “R says,” about literary rats a few years ago, that had this line drawing by Roberto Chavez. It goes pretty well with this poem, too.


For your cities, thank you. For your
big noise. For the rain-glossed, thin-skinned

bags of food. For the tunnels, the candy-
pink shell of your walls that we map

by feel, by oilsmear, around you, the richest
place in your house. For poison blunted,

your undersink arsenal defused and dead
by overuse, by you. Thank you. For you

have been the sand to your own blaze.
For you have been a gentle sentinel,

letting us slip in around you,
cryptic, slick. This is what

we hope you’ll take in for your pains:
we’ll stay, I promise, by your side

at every step, like the guns
you love to use till they’re

empty: click click.

Karen Leona Anderson

Facing Shelves

I first saw this poem in Poetry Daily. When I contacted the poet for permission to print it here, I had a lovely exchange with them about my time as a library volunteer, facing the books on the shelves. I love the play of the two-faced god through the poem, which comes out especially with the hand reaching through the shelf at the end, the shelves as a liminal, transitional space.

Janus Faces the Canned Goods Aisle

as a verb, (facing) refers to the
physical action of moving products to the
edge of the shelf to ensure shelves always
appear full, even if they are not

-darren gilbert, “an expert’s

guide to product facing”


deep and compulsive I reach
into the dark place
between the kidney and the black
beans, to pull what’s hidden to the front,
to maintain the feel of a well-stocked shelf, a horn
of plenty. my hand
fetches the last can, draws it out, the fecund delusion
of the steady stream
of men who’d load their arms
with lightly damaged things, and lay them at my feet

strawberries, bulk snacks, wool socks
in winter, of the always open-closing door
produce guy, meat guy, night crew sauntering in, 9 or so,
whenever I closed, who’d wink and ask,
will you check me out, by which they meant, let me
steal something

I used to dream of making out in the dairy case
with each and every one
whenever I was alone in the breakroom, licking day-old yogurt
from my plastic spoon
between stanzas of the metamorphoses, beat-up copy we’d read
in fifteen-minute segments. I line up
cans, satisfying form.
a can for the stocker let go
for singing in the aisles. a can
for the hidden hand appearing
from the other side of the milks, encouraging
the bottle forward as I reach in

Mack Gregg


Lying was part of my family heritage, so this poem by Peg Boyers felt very close to me. I first saw it in a selection from Sean the Sharpener. It unfolds so quietly to lead us through the “snug darkness” us to its powerful ending.

The Coat

At eleven I learned to lie.
Disobedience and its partner,
deception, became my constant companions.

How enormous then that first transgression,
against Father’s command, a sin damning as Adam’s:
walking to school alone.

We all lied, mother explained,
it was. . .necessario.
How else to survive

Father’s rages,
his sweeping interdicts
and condemning opinions?

Oh sweet allegiance of lies:
siblings and mother bound
together in a cozy tie!

My brothers’ lies
were manly,
obdurate, built to last.

Mother’s were infirm little things,
infected from birth by her obstinate grace,
fated to die as soon as they hit the air.

But this lie, the lie about me, was sturdy,
knit, as it was, from the fiber of maternal love
and a wife’s defiance.

Go ahead; it’s right.
Walk alone. Grow up.

Each assurance a coercion, each coercion a shame.

The lie was a coat of mail
I’d don each day, threading my arms
through its leaden sleeves,

pulling its weight over my head,
steeling myself
for my father’s wrath.

In it I was strong and getting stronger,
but tired, always tired.
Oh to rest, shuck the lie and confess!

Father forgive me, I knew not what I did!
At night I’d rehearse the lines
and pray for his cleansing fury.

In the morning I’d meet him in the hall,
already crabby in his gray lab coat,
barking his harsh observations

about my robe (pink: ridiculous)
about my face (vacant)
about my voice (inaudible).

Mother, how did we produce such an insect!

I was used to this.

Exasperated, he would stuff his red frizz into a beret,
hurl himself into his loden cape
and bolt out the gate–too rushed for truths.

Silenced again, I would resume my solitary mission,
lugging my books, wearing my lie to school
and back again, through the maze of city streets.

One day the mist briefly lifted and I saw
the winter sun pulsing silver and pale
through a hole in the sky–a quiet disk

hopeful as the moon.
A face emerged, white whiskers smiling,
familiar, professorial–an angel perhaps,

or a friend of the family–
here to guide me safely
across the river to school.

He took my bag and my arm,
allaying my fears with talk
calculated to soothe, flatter, amuse.

Gentile, cosí gentile.
Ever faithful, he met me at my gate
morning after sweet morning.

We chatted carelessly the whole way,
intimate as lovers,
never a snag

or worry to hold us up–
I, grateful and happy,
he gently leading the way.

My trust deepened daily with his purpose
and burrowed
in the snug darkness of short days

where the new lie took root.
From deep in the loam, the probing
stem pushed to the surface.

Meanwhile, the first lie grew light with practice.
And my coat assumed
the comfort of a uniform.

His purpose, obscured from the start by fear,
suppressed tenaciously
by innocence–canny innocence–

flared up in a question,
betraying an ignorance
both clear and obscene:

Little Girl, would you touch me–here?

Suddenly my hand, sweetly warming
in his flannel pocket, was pushed
to the hard, oozing center.

My hand recoiled.
But the ooze stuck.
In that minute my childhood ended.

I ran home as fast as my legs would carry me
to hide my shame in the place
where secrets were made and kept,

willful little liar, disobedient
sinner trying to find my way alone
through fog, through lies.

My life was filling up with secrets
and deceit’s secretions,
loneliness and melancholy.

I hugged my coat tight against my body
so that the lies and I were one.

Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell died in 2020. I had corresponded with him–a generous man, a famous teacher of poetry.  Here is one of his poems:

To Dorothy

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
the air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

Marvin Bell
from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000, Copper Canyon Press

Tony Hoagland’s Last Book

I just finished Turn Up the River,  written as he was dying of cancer, published posthumously. It has some terrific poems in it, including this one:

On Why I Must Decline To Receive The Prayers You Say You Are Constantly Sending

Because first of all, I have a feeling that they didn’t cost you anything,
and so I have to wonder: What is their actual market value?

For you, is the prayer like a radar-guided projectile
mounted on the hinged-together wings of several good intentions,
propelled by the flawed translation of a Rumi poem?

Anyway, my mailbox is already pretty much occupied for the season.
At the beginning of May a big mother wren started moving in,
one mouthful of straw and twig at a time.

For three days she flew in and out, in and out and in,
building a nest the size of a small soup bowl.
Then she sat on her eggs for two weeks, cooing and fluffing to keep them warm.
Then she was busy feeding her young.

I think the heat passing through that mother’s body into her brood
has already surpassed the endoplasmic vibrational voltage
you’ve mentioned as a feature of the prayers you are sending me.

I understand that you are doing your best
to hoist yourself up toward a spiritual life,
even if it is through the doorway of a kind of pretending.

But if you really care, as you claim, please
will you kindly sit down and work your shit out?
Stop stealing reality from the world
and replacing it with make-believe!

The newspaper says that poorly aimed prayers
are causing flat tires on I-25.

The sandalwood incense blowing across the valley
is already causing cab drivers a lot of allergies.

So sit still and just look at the colors of the changing sky.
And could you stop burning so many candles, please?

My god, think how many hours and hours and hours —
think of how hard those bees worked
to make all that wax!

Bert Meyers

There are so many new poets, sometimes it’s hard to remember how many good poets have come and gone! Here’s Bert Meyer’s homage to a wonderful allium.

The Garlic

Rabbi of condiments,
whose breath is a verb,
wearing a thin beard
and a white robe;
you who are pale and small
and shaped like a fist,
a synagogue,
bless our bitterness,
transcend the kitchen
to sweeten death—
our wax in the flame
and our seed in the bread.

Now, my parents pray,
my grandfather sits,
my uncles fill
my mouth with ashes.

Bert Meyers, “The Garlic” from In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat: Collected Poems.

Linda Pastan

Linda Pastan died in January this year, and this seems an appropriate poem to post for her.  She was born in 1932 and went to Radcliffe. During her senior year, Pastan won a collegiate poetry prize sponsored by Mademoiselle magazinem a contest in which Sylvia Plath placed second. I wonder how that felt later on.


I saw my name in print the other day
with 1932 and then a blank
and knew that even now some grassy bank
just waited for my grave. And somewhere a grey

slab of marble existed already
on which the final number would be carved—
as if the stone itself were somehow starved
for definition. When I went steady

in high school years ago, my boyfriend’s name
was what I tried out, hearing how it fit
with mine; then names of film stars in some hit.
My husband was anonymous as rain.

There is a number out there, odd or even
that will become familiar to my sons
and daughter. (They are the living ones
I think of now: Peter, Rachel, Stephen.)

I picture it, four integers in a row
5 or 7, 6 or 2 or 9:
a period; silence; an end-stopped line;
a hammer poised … delivering its blow.

Linda Pastan, from Paris Review

Donald Justice

According to legend, when John Berryman taught a poetry workshop at Iowa, his class was oversubscribed. He assigned a sonnet to everyone who wanted to attend and picked the attendees based on their work.  This is the sonnet that Donald Justice submitted:

The Wall

The wall surrounding them they never saw;
The angels, often. Angels were as common
As birds or butterflies, but looked more human.
As long as the wings were furled, they felt no awe.
Beasts, too, were friendly. They could find no flaw
In all of Eden: this was the first omen.
The second was the dream which woke the woman.
She dreamed she saw the lion sharpen his claw.
As for the fruit, it had no taste at all.
They had been warned of what was bound to happen.
They had been told of something called the world.
They had been told and told about the wall.
They saw it now; the gate was standing open.
As they advanced, the giant wings unfurled.

If I had been in that workshop, I would have suggested the following edit:

The wall surrounding them they never saw;
The angels, often. Angels were as common
As birds or butterflies, but looked more human.
As long as the wings were furled, they felt no awe.
Beasts, too, were friendly. They could find no flaw
In all of Eden: this was the first omen.
The second was the dream which woke the woman.
She dreamed she saw the lion sharpen his claw.
They had been warned of what was bound to happen.
They had been told of something called the world.
They had been told and told about the wall.
They saw it now; the gate was standing open.
As they advanced, the giant wings unfurled.
As for the fruit, it had no taste at all.

Would love to know what you think.