So many husbands on Monday

It’s always a delight to discover a new poet.  Here is a poem by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I love the whole neighborhood of past loves. Don’t we all have that, even if they are long past? And that last line is killer:

 

Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves.
Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many
slices of cake? Even now, my husbands plan a great meal
for us—one chops up some parsley, one stirs a bubbling pot
on the stove. One changes the baby, and one sleeps
in a fat chair. One flips through the newspaper, another
whistles while he shaves in the shower, and every single
one of them wonders what time I am coming home.

New Year’s poem

As a sure sign of January, I saw an exercise bike by the side of the road with a “Free” sign on it. New year, new exercise resolutions, which segues nicely to Lucille Clifton’s poem:

i am running into a new year

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even thirty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

lucille clifton

The sin buffet, 2019

At the end of services last week, Rabbi Margaret Holub put out the sin buffet, which I have written about before. This is a ritual I love, taking breadcrumbs from the cup by the “sins” that seem relevant and then walking out to the ocean and casting them into the surf.

The idea is to reflect on these during the 10 days until Yom Kippur, so that you can atone for them effectively.

I see that I found more flaws in my character to reflect on this year, and share them here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, if these don’t seem to apply to you, you can always select “Other” and simply fill in what applies.  Happy New Year!

 

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown came to town to read on Thursday, and synchronistically, this poem appeared in the Sunday NY Times Magazine.

Crossing

The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day grows dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.
We work, start on one side of the day
Like a planet’s only sun, our eyes straight
Until the flame sinks. The flame sinks. Thank God Continue reading “Jericho Brown”

A terrific essay

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Ted Gioia, an essayist who is right up there with my favorites. In “Bach at the Burger King,” he writes about the “weaponization of classical music” as well as the damage caused by its use as advertising enhancement. Worth a read!

Ted is the son of the poet Dana Gioia, so he comes by his prose style naturally.

Lynn Emanuel

This wonderful poet is coming to read here next week. I have posted one of her poems before, but thought I’d post another, from her book “The Dig.” This poem, as many in the book describe a childhood at the edge, with unreliable caretakers. The description of “wringing of every cent from every dollar,” resonated with me, and I love the details of the description.

The Red Kimono

I stare at the brass scarred by beating until
it is as bright and uneven as a lake in August when the sun
melts all reflections into one wide gold zero, when the sky
itself is wide, is hot as the bell that this schoolmaster,
inappropriately strict, tips to summon the children from the unrelenting
heat of noon. The long tape unrolls from the teeth of the adding
machine onto the scarred deal. Over and over the budget unreels
and spills, liberated from the sprockets and machinery of will.
My mother sits with a pencil and ticks her teeth, we are broke,
every avenue of escape is closed, even the car tires at the curb
are fat black zeros, all the scheming and coaxing, the wringing
of every cent from every dollar, has come to nothing. I watch
my mother swab up the dust, her hair tied in a rag, her naked
feet, nails bloodied by a tiny brush. Misery, misery, the cranes
of good luck hunch at the snowy mountain of her left breast
as she bends to set the empties on the step in the housecoat
the landlady lent.

Lynn Emanuel, from The Dig

Monday poem

Ted Kooser was US Poet Laureate in 2004. His poems often deal with the farming communities of the midwest, like this one, which does a great job of capturing a moment and a perspective.

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Ted Kooser

Instead of daffodils

One of my poet friends who doesn’t live nearby, sent me this this morning. It did cheer me up after a very dispiriting week.

French Chocolates

If you have your health, you have everything
is something that’s said to cheer you up
when you come home early and find your lover
arched over a stranger in a scarlet thong.

Or it could be you lose your job at Happy Nails
because you can’t stop smudging the stars
on those ten teeny American flags.

I don’t begrudge you your extravagant vitality.
May it blossom like a cherry tree. May the petals
of your cardiovascular excellence
and the accordion polka of your lungs
sweeten the mornings of your loneliness. Continue reading “Instead of daffodils”

Poetry in Motion

One of the projects sponsored by Poetry Society of America is short poems posted in panels on NY subways. Larry caught a glimpse of this one, exiting the train:

Dew

Like peas in their
green canoe, like
beads strung
in a row, sit
drops of dew
along a blade
of grass.  But
unattached and
subject to their
weight they slip
if they accumulate. Continue reading “Poetry in Motion”

Postwar Polish Poetry

Some of the most moving poetry seemed to come out of Poland after World War II. Polish history reads like a particularly bloody video game of conquest and reconquest of those fertile fields smack in the center of Europe. Everybody wanted them. But the Holocaust and the Nazi/Russian battles seemed to sear something in the Polish soul. Miłoz’ anthology, Postwar Polish Poetry contains a treasury of poems. Many of these writers have appeared here over the years, but Anna Swir is new to me. Her full name is Anna Świrszczyńskaya, and she was a nurse during the Warsaw Uprising.

Here is one of the sections from Building the Barricade: Continue reading “Postwar Polish Poetry”