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21 April, 2000

Mad Girl's Love Song

A vilanelle
by Sylvia Plath
Smith College, '54.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed 
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you'd said,
But I grow old and I forgot your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

  When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends posessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising,
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

To Remain

November sixteenth, nineteen-eighty-nine, in San Salvador, the unsaved city, The soldiers rephrase Genesis: Let there be Light, so we can see those we're killing, The right bodies or the wrong bodies. The death squad posters say, Be a Patriot, Kill a Priest. And on this night the Atlacatl Battalion, accents of training drills at Fort Benning, Georgia, still in their ears, Made In the U.S.A. bullets in their belts, circle The University of Central America. Inside the gates, They drag five Jesuits from their cots, men who Yesterday said masses for the massacred, their Minds now reminded of no new future testament. They are now face down, fatherly eyes in the dust Of the courtyard. And according to the official Report, the bodies are lined from north to south, With their heads toward the west, and their feet Stretched toward the east. And after the killing, After the commander's simple words, "Let's proceed," There remains Amando López, 55, theology professor, Found in the following position: head to the west, Feet pointed to the east, mouth down, left arm bent Toward the west, right arm bent to the east, dressed In striped shorts, green poncho, green jeans. And easily Found next to him, there remains Ignacio Martín Baró, 46, Psychology professor and Vice-Rector, found in The following position: head to the west, feet To the east, left arm to the west, right arm bent To the north, right foot on the left foot, mouth Down, wearing a blue shirt, black leather belt, gray Pants, black shoes and socks. And Segundo Montes, 56, Sociology professor and Director of Human Rights, who Had said, "I want to live with the people who suffer And deserve more," found in the following position: Mouth down, feet extended to the northeast, head To the southwest, left arm and right arm bent Below the head with direction to the south, Wearing beige shorts, beige shirt, and green jeans. And next to him, Ignacio Ellacuría, 59, University Rector, mouth down, head to the north, Feet to the south, left arm to the north, right Arm bent toward the face, wearing a brown bathrobe, Beige shorts with vertical stripes, blue shoes. And Next to him Juan Ramón Moreno, 55, theology professor, Found in the following position: mouth down, head To the east, feet to the west, arms extended toward The southwest, dressed in black corduroy pants, black Belt, long-sleeved blue shirt, purple shorts, brown Leather shoe on the right foot. And inside The residence, one remaining priest, called Lolo, Joaquin López y López, 71, Director of Fé y Alegría, The quiet one, who was chased through the corridors, Found in the following position: mouth up, head To the east, feet to the west, arms bent over The chest, hands semi-closed, wearing a white sleeveless Undershirt, brown pants, black belt, shorts with vertical Stripes. And in the room off the kitchen, where they asked To spend the night to escape the night of city violence, Of quiet killings done quickly, the new siege, civilians Beholding that one brightest star exploding, as their Roofs are torn off by bombs, children watching Fire fights after curfew through cracks in the walls, in this room, Elba Julia Ramos, 40, Jesuit Community cook, Mouth up, head to the north, left foot to the south and right Foot to the southwest, right arm to the northwest, left arm To the southeast, both extended, wearing a blue dress, beige Slip, black leather shoes, white bra; and her daughter, Celina Ramos, 15, high school student, mouth up, head to The north, feet to the south, right arm over the chest, left arm Perpendicular to the left side with direction to the north, Wearing blue shorts, black, orange, red, and beige vertically Striped blouse, white leather shoes with laces. Elba and Celina, Who were "rekilled" when heard moaning from wounds, were Found embracing before the M-16 fired ten more bullets Into their bodies. And Elba was discovered that morning By her husband at the same moment that Celina was discovered That morning by her father, a campesino who cannot Write this down, but instead weeks later planted two white rose Bushes in the courtyard, one for Elba, one for Celina, And surrounded them with six red rose bushes, one to the north, One to the south, one to the east, one to the west, cardinal Points, and two to directions that haven't been invented yet, A compass of roses that searches for where we are going, That can tell us where we have been. The white bushes Are like the needle in the compass that tries to point Beyond compassion. Or to tell us who the third person left Standing is, the one who sees all, the witness, the one Who has testimony, who has lamentation, who stands in For the 70,000 Salvadorans killed in one decade. Edward Kleinschmidt Mayes Speed of Life

  O generation of the thoroughly smug
	and thoroughly uncomfortable,
  I have seen fishermen picknickning in the sun,
  I have seen them with their untidy families,
  I have seen their smiles full of teeth
	and heard ungainly laughter.
  And I am happier than you are,
  And they were happier than I am;
  And the fish swim in the lake
	and do not even own clothing.

		Ezra Pound.


Fetch Go, bring back the worthless stick. "Of memory," I almost added. But she wouldn't understand, naturally. There is the word and the thing adhering. So far so good. Metaphor, drawer of drafting tools — spill it on the study floor, animal says, that we might at least see how an expensive ruler tastes. Yesterday I pissed and barked and ate because that's what waking means. Thus has God solved time for me — here, here. What you call memory is a long and sweet, delicious crack of wood in my teeth I bring back and bring back and bring back. Jeffrey Skinner

The Three Wishes

Because he has been starving, the woodsman wishes for a skillet of hot sausages, and because she is infuriated at his stupidity, his lack of vision, shall we say, his wife wishes the skillet would stick to his nose, and thus the last wish must be also wasted by asking the genie to please remove the cast-iron pan from the poor man's face. Hovering in the smoke that wafts up from his exotic bottle, the genie knew all along that the couple would never escape their miserable lot — the cheerless hovel, a thin dog in the corner, the cold skillet resting on the cold stove — and we knew this too, looking down from the cloud of a sofa into the world of a book. The man is a fool, it is easily said. He could have wished for a million gold coins, his wife will remind him every day for the rest of their rueful lives, or a million golden skillets if he had a little imaginative flair, and that is the pebble of truth the story wishes to place in one of our shoes. Nothing can come from nothing, I nod with the rest of the congregation. Three wishes is three wishes too many, I mutter piously as I look up from the story. But every time I hear it, all I ever really feel besides a wave of tenderness for the poor woodsman is a biting hunger for sausages — a sudden desire for a winter night, a light snow falling outside, my ax leaning by the door, my heavyset wife at the stove, and a skillet full of sizzling sausages, maybe some green peppers, a few onions, and for my seventh and final wish, a decent bottle of Italian or even Chilean red. Billy Collins The Gettysburg Review

"Save Me From Madness, God..."

Save me from madness, God, I beg. No, I prefer the beggar's bag, Prefer to starve and toil. And not as if I praise my head, And not as if I were not glad To part with mind at all. If I were left alone and free, Oh, how fast I then would flee To wildness, thick and dim! I would sing songs in flaming fits And lose myself in fumes and bits Of mixed and lovely dreams. And I would listen to the sea, And, full of happiness, would see The heavens' empty flesh; And then I would be strong and free Like whirl that could dig up a lea And leave a forest smashed. Alas! The man whose mind is lost, Would be as awful as a curse, And very soon be locked, They'd put the fool in chains in rage, And, as a wild beast, through the cage They would you tease and mock. And in the night I would attend Not to the nightingale's clarinet, And hum of woods and plains - But to the cries of my inmates, And oaths of the jailers-rats, And squeak and ring of chains. Puskin.

	My Suicide

        As time goes by, my head hangs low
        Tears have rolled down my face, not long ago
        My hopes and dreams, been shattered by 
        The cruel monsters that we are, we live and die
        Sad dreams flood me, just like a tide
        I found myself thinking about, my suicide
        Night will come, dusk has crawled
        Death is shouting names out loud, mine has been called
        My life is gray, I am alone
        My cold and still and dried out heart, has turned to stone
        I see my young self, right by my side
        My tears and thoughts float out towards, my suicide

        Pedro de Carvalho
Dear Reader,

I can't say I ever considered suicide in my life, though friends of mine have decided to try it, some have succeeded, and we hear about it all the time. Depression is an American obsession, and in fact, I would have to say that once everyone jumped on the depression bangwagon, it became very unappealling to feel sad and morose, like I anyway, was inclined to do back in the old days of some false, nehilistic mentality.

So when I read poems such as this one, I feel very bad for a person in the depths of such despair, that is not a spoiled average American run-of-the-mill baseless lament; truly he is suffering.

It feels like a suffering that cannot be touched. Maybe that is why so many people succeed in taking their own lives.

An Other American Reader.

What do you think?


                           It was a day — a bit
                           of camouflage cloth
                           through which the sun could shine.
                           I decided to hang the laundry

                           on a line. It was another day
                           in my civilian life. Monday, the day

                           of lost keys. Tuesday the breathing sweetness
                           of macaroni & cheese. When I

                           heard my son's sheets slapping
                           at the breeze, I turned around.

                           The sound
                           of soldiers
                           marching through the trees.


                           is the sparrow's day; she
                           nests in the place where the shingles
                           have broken away from the eaves,
                           in a home she's made for herself

                           out of Kleenex
                           and twigs.

                           The bus
                           is yellow.
                           It goes and comes
                           bearing the small
                           laundry of my son.

                           Thursday, a star
                           falls out of the sky as I
                           wheel the child's bike
                           to the garage — the garage, which is a darkness
                           like the father

                           of my son, glittering
                           with wrenches, the smell of rags and oil. He keeps

                           a hat he wore in the jungle
                           hanging from a nail on the door. Friday

                           the clouds
                           part above the highway, leaving
                           a ragged hole
                           in my clean sky. The laundry

                           on the line, how like our lives! As if

                           something of ourselves
                           could be left behind, hanging

                           in the sun, taking
                           our places, bearing
                           our vague shapes
                           long after we've stepped away, wearing

                           other lives on other days. Shadows, pants, on

                           the library's stone lions run
                           freely through the streets.
                           We have to lock the doors.
                           We have to stay inside. But

                           by Sunday morning they've come back, and see

                           how emptily they stand,
                           very still and very quiet,

                           side by side, side by side.

                           Laura Kasischke

The Patron-Poet of the Page:
William Blake.

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