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The Poetry URL of the Moment

John Keats
One of the greatest lyric poets in the English language.
Find out more here.

W o r d    P l a y    f o r    Y o u r   
C o n s i d e r a t i o n

P oetry:
W hat is it?

The Wood-Pile

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day, I paused and said, "I will turn back from here. No, I will go on farther -- and we shall see." The hard snow held me, save where now and then One foot went through. The view was all in lines Straight up and down of tall slim trees Too much alike to mark or name a place by So as to say for certain I was here Or somewhere else: I was just far from home. A small bird flew before me. He was careful To put a tree between us when he lighted, And say no word to tell me who he was Who was so foolish as to think what he thought. He thought that I was after him for a feather -- The white one in his tail; like one who takes Everything said as personal to himself. One flight out sideways would have undeceived him. And then there was a pile of wood for which I forgot him and let his little fear Carry him off the way I might have gone, Without so much as wishing him good-night. He went behind it to make his last stand. It was a cord of maple, cut and split And piled -- and measured, four by four by eight. And not another like it could I see. No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it. And it was older sure than this year's cutting, Or even last year's or the year's before. The wood was gray and the bark warping off it And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle. What held it though on one side was a tree Still growing, and on one a stake and prop, These latter about to fall. I thought that only Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks Could so forget his handiwork on which He spent himself, the labor of his axe, And leave it there far from a useful fireplace To warm the frozen swamp as best it could With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

Robert Frost.

Now go to a discussion of this poem and, if you have 'Real Audio', hear it read aloud.


Sad Moose

He's shed his left horn and lists to the right, working the last one hard against trees and stones. An old bull, his dewlap's shot with silver, his winter hide shelving off like crumbling shale. High on the brisket there's a wound, oozing and festered, the fletched end of an arrow worn down but still visible. He's carrion on the hoof. There's a bear nearby, I'll bet, or a lion. The howls of last night's coyotes loom explanatory today, one pack's in line, and another is on the way. Though half the pond is iced over, the bottom's algae, new mosses, and some translucent shoots of the earliest aquatic weeds. Besides, isn't the oar above the right ear lighter in water? Each day for a week I've watched him, the ribs defined into claws, a slow strangulation in his own stout bones. "Stout bones," I say, aloud, and the submerged head comes up dripping, an arc splash flung by the antler. In two tremendous leaps, he's battering the brush between us, and I'm shinning up a lodgepole no bigger than my thigh, pulse pounding counterpoint to his moosely abandon. Ten yards of deadfall and alder and he's still. I'm slung among squirrel perches and looking down at forty-five degrees into his eye. It's the upward eye, the extant horn on edge, down against a fallen snag like a kickstand. He's a pentapod, the eye from this angle blue-black and cloudy, like motor oil laced with milk. Five more minutes and he's back in the water and I'm down, picking my quiet way through duff and dead branches to the trail. This morning when I left the cabin, I considered the pistol there. In my jacket pocket, five bullets rattle like beads. Fire, I think, and language, possibly love. I have these things a moose does not. Sad moose, sad man. Sad is the world a while, as it waits to feed, some of us seed and tendril, some of us stone.

i sing of Olaf glad and big Whose warmest heart recoiled at war: a conscientious object-or

his well-belov้d colonal (trig westpointer most succinctily bred) took erring Olaf soon in hand; but -- though an host of overjoyed noncoms (first knocking on the head him) do through icy waters roll that helplessness which others stroke with brushes recently employed anent this muddy toiletbowl, while kindred intellects evoke alligiance per blunt instruments -- Olaf (being to all intents a corpse and wanting any rag upon what God unto him gave) responds, without getting annoyed "I will not kiss your fucking flag" straightway the silver bird looked grave (departing hurriedly to shave)

but -- though all kinds of officers (a yearning nation's blueeyed pride) their passive prey did kick and curse until for wear their clarion voices and boots were much the worse, and egged the firstclassprivates on his rectum wickedly to tease by means of skillfully applied bayonets roasted hot with heat -- Olaf (upon what were once knees) does almost ceaselessly repeat "there is some shit I will not eat"

our president, being of which assertions duly notified threw the yellowsonofabitch into a dungeon, where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite) i pray to see; and Olaf, too

preponderatingly because unless stastics lie he was more brave than me: more blond than you.



She walks to a table
She walk to table

She is walking to a table
She walk to table now

What difference does it make
What difference it make

In Nature, no completeness
No sentence really complete thought

Language, like woman
Look best when free, undressed

When I was eight I lit a coal stove every morning staring at the sparks jump and dance out of flames as I fanned them with a palm leaf Mother said they were fairies in exile turned into diamonds She knit a crown to adorn my childhood When I was eight I went fishing in a flooded stream I floated on water pebbles were my pillows I looked up at the milky clouds spreading across the sky Father said they were angels in exile turned into waterfalls He folded a boat to bear away my childhood

Lord, pity such sinners.  Monday afternoon
Is not the proper time for Augustine.
My saints are porcelain, chipped clair de lune,
Books and white wine.  But don't intervene:
My chastity, unwitting though it is,
Is Real; nor have I worshiped bitterness.
Jobless and on the loose, my share of bliss
Is simply that I've felt what I confess.

And what absolves me?  This chilled Chardonnay,
A few letters from Cambridge and Vermont,
And You, who will restrain me if I stray
Too far from love I both reject and want.
And should this be "interpreted disease,"
Yours are such sinners, such apologies.

            -Timothy Steele

Still Safe

Twenty-five years ago this summer — surely? —
You made your way from here through Europe
In thumbed-down trucks through Turkey, Iran,
Afghanistan, Pakistan and down past the bleached-out
Plains of India to Agra's gardens,
Each with its pool and mascot peafowl
Sulking or strutting in idiot glamor
Through scalding days;
                                  but since it was night
When you arrived, the outre game
Were roosting — surely? — and barely glanced
Your way or squalled their hideous cry
As you picked the lowest stretch of wall
 (A sheer eight feet), flung a backpack over,
Then hurled yourself behind it and into
 Your hope — bullseye: the nearside park
Of the Taj Mahal and not one guard,
One chained white tiger or spitting cobra
To balk the aim that drew you here.
     Whatever your goal, it had taken you from here —
Nine months and halfway round the planet —
Into what was surely a gathering certainty
Of facing, any moment, the armed defender
 With no word of English and orders to shoot;
Or at least you'd trip sky-splitting alarms.
      Turned out, the loveliest building of all —
The tomb and altar of a love as nearly
Permanent as any yet shared —
Was awaiting apparently no one but you,
Your compact perfect head and body.
Inside, you began to believe your safety.
The place was literally empty, vulnerable
As any girl child abandoned in a jail.
      So you walked forward to a single lamp
(This is my memory anyhow of all you told me —
Surely I'm right?), a single all but
Guttering flame and set it square
In the midst of the space, plumb under the dome,
Those million tons of alabaster
Borne by the merest stroke of the light
You'd troubled to center.
                                     And then you sang
"Amazing Grace" in a tenor frail
As the stroking flame that bore the roof.
That eighteenth-century hymn had begun
Its rise to pop fame as you left home
(These full years later it's the single hymn
Most heathen Americans know for solemn events).
     But tired as it feels now, my memory
Stirs at the hauled-back tune and the sight
of you there, as open to chaos and grinding
Death as the poised scorpion near your sandal
Or the mineral Taj or the Earth herself —
A sitting target for every random rock
Or the lasers of an alien world that's found us
And aims to cauterize us out
Before we learn more.
If not, or if I'm wrong again,
Then break the silence that's lain between us
And lie through your teeth. Say you're still there,
Singing; or I might whisper that, however
Far or long in actual time you're gone,
You've yet to move one millimeter
From the midst of my head — your safest jail.


                  He opens her. She can't have him.
                  Day following night.
                  She can't have him but he opens her.
                  Clay and water.
                  He opens her because she can't have him.
                  Hive in a tree.
                  She can't have him until he opens her.
                  Peony and ant.
                  He opens her until she can't have him.
                  Wind in grass.
                  She can't have him while he opens her.
                  Cloud and rain.
                  He opens her, regretful she can't have him.
                  Phrase and mockingbird.
                  She can't have him regretful when he opens her.
                  Root and weak branch.

                  Kathleen Peirce
                  The Oval Hour

Kleenroom Image

Incident at Third and Woodlawn

The flaming trees, like girls on prom night dressed
in orange and gold they'll change to gray tomorrow,
distract me as I step into the street.
A horn, a brake, a turning driver's scream —
I dodge her bumper, hopping to the sidewalk,
 luckier than that squirrel laid by the curb.
He's flattened, abstract, except for his glassy eye.

Meeting his stare reminds me I've been struck
down twice by cars. Once, looking neither right
nor left, I raced toward Carol Anne's yellow curls
bobbing on her neck across the street.
When I woke up, unhurt, one whole day off
from grade school with an x-ray of my skull
for a souvenir, I said I'd learned my lesson,

but twelve years later, many states away,
musing on the date I hustled toward,
I got knocked down again, by a swerving teen
on her first day of driving and my last
on earth, almost. Looking up I wondered
if stars I saw were real, or the kind you see
unconsciously in transit to your death.

They turned out real — the Big Dipper, Venus
glittering green beneath the crescent moon.
 The stretcher crew so gently lifted me,
I sighed like a taken-care-of child.
Once more, x-rays showed no fractured bones,
and when I knocked, hours late, at my date's door,
my bruises turned her rage to sweet concern.

It's half a lifetime since her frown unwrinkled
in dim porch light to wide-eyed sympathy,
but I can see and feel that same change, now,
as sun breaks through a rift in mottled sky
and brushes my face like her unfisted hand.
 The smiling sun and her gorgeous daughter-trees,
 tossing down the favors of their leaves,

seem to love me as she seemed to, then,
loving, really, only my persistence
in trailing beauty like a bee in fall,
when threatening frost turns flowers into gems
and trees to flowers, and men in their forties
to squirrel brains. Oh Nature, take my hand
and help me safely cross to brown November.

Thought    for    the    Day::

The mahogany table-top you smashed Had been the broad plank top Of my mother's heirloom sideboard - Mapped with the scars of my whole life. That came under the hammer. The high stool you swung that day Demented by my being Twenty minutes late for baby-minding. "Marvellous!" I shouted, 'Go on, Smash it into kindling. That's the stuff you're keeping out of your poems!' And later, considered and calmer, 'Get that shoulder under your stanzas And we'll be away.' Deep in the cave of your ear The goblin snapped his fingers. So what had I given him? The bloody end of the skein That unravelled your marriage, Left your children echoing Like tunnels in a labyrinth, Left your mother a dead-end, Brought you to the horned, bellowing Grave of your risen father - And your own corpse in it.      Ted Hughes (RIP)

Speak to me.  Take my hand.  What are you now?
I will tell you all.  I will conceal nothing.
When I was three, a little child read a story about a rabbit
who died, in the story, and I crawled under a chair:
a pink rabbit: it was my birthday, and a candle
burnt a sore spot on my finger, and I was told to be happy.

Oh, grow to know me.  I am not happy.  I will be open:
Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,
like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm about me.
There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing.

Speak to me.  Take my hand.  What are you now?
When I was nine, I was fruitily sentimental,
fluid:  and my widowed aunt played Chopin,
and I bent my head on the painted woodwork, and wept.
I want now to be close to you.  I would
link the minutes of my days close, somehow, to your days.

I am not happy.  I will be open.
I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet poems.
There has been fear in my life.  Sometimes I speculate 
on what a tragedy his life was, really.

Take my hand.  Fist my mind in your hand.  What are you now?
When I was fourteen, I had dreams of suicide,
and I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping toward death:
if the light had not melted clouds and plains to beauty,
if light had not transformed that day, I would have leapt.
I am unhappy.  I am lonely.  Speak to me.

I will be open.  I think he never loved me:
he loved the bright beaches, the little lips of foam
that ride small waves, he loved the veer of gulls:
he said with a gay mouth:  I love you.  Grow to know me.

What are you now?  If we could touch one another,
if these our separate entities could come to grips,
clenched like a Chinese puzzle. . .  yesterday
I stood in a crowded street that was live with people,
and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone.
Everyone silent, moving. . .   Take my hand.  Speak to me.

Muriel Rukeyser


Fourth of July Special

America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea! O beautiful for pilgrim feet Whose stem impassioned - stress A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife. Who more than self the country loved And mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine! O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea! O beautiful for halcyon skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the enameled plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee Till souls wax fair as earth and air And music-hearted sea! O beautiful for pilgrims feet, Whose stem impassioned stress A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness! America ! America ! God shed his grace on thee Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought By pilgrim foot and knee! O beautiful for glory-tale Of liberating strife When once and twice, for man's avail Men lavished precious life ! America! America! God shed his grace on thee Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free! O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed his grace on thee Till nobler men keep once again Thy whiter jubilee

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