Tag Archives: Poetry

It’s too hot to blog, but I’d like to share a poem…

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Drinking from the faucet

Our cat’s fascination with water

by Al Zolynas

I wake to his weight on my chest, his half-closed eyes saying it's
time to get up, human. In the bathroom, I turn on the faucet in the
tub for him, the way I have most mornings the last two years.  He
jumps in.  The black flames of his eyes widen.  Again, he can't
believe it, can't believe the silver chord hanging from the silver
faucet, can't believe he lives in a world that gives him the same,
new gift each morning; can't believe it, so he has to touch it, and
then can't believe his paw goes right through it, and has to touch it
again and again; and I, looking at his lost eyes, the wet paw,
the tail flicking on the white porcelain, my untouchable other self
on the silver surface of the mirror, can't believe it either.

Last poem of the month


by Al Zolynas

At the precise moment of death
the pupil of the eye
opens its widest.

The white lights in ceilings,
the moon, sun
stars, comets, nebulae,
the great band of the Milky Way--
all fall into the brain.

There are no lights
too bright for the dying.

Grammar rules with a beat

The Grammar Lesson

by Steve Kowit

A noun’s a thing. A verb’s the thing it does.
An adjective is what describes the noun.
In “The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz”

of and with are prepositions. The’s
an article, a can’s a noun,
a noun’s a thing. A verb’s the thing it does.

A can can roll – or not. What isn’t was
or might be, might meaning not yet known.
“Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz”

is present tense. While words like our and us
are pronouns – i.e. it is moldy, they are icky brown.
A noun’s a thing; a verb’s the thing it does.

Is is a helping verb. It helps because
filled isn’t a full verb. Can’s what our owns
in “Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.”

See? There’s almost nothing to it. Just
memorize these rules…or write them down!
A noun’s a thing, a verb’s the thing it does.
The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.

Coffee in the afternoon

Coffee in the Afternoon

by Alberto Ríos

It was afternoon tea, with tea foods spread out
Like in the books, except that it was coffee.

She made a tin pot of cowboy coffee, from memory,
That’s what we used to call it, she said, cowboy coffee.

The grounds she pinched up in her hands, not a spoon,
And the fire on the stove she made from a match.

I sat with her and talked, but the talk was like the tea food,
A little of this and something from the other plate as well,

Always with a napkin and a thank-you. We sat and visited
And I watched her smoke cigarettes

Until the afternoon light was funny in the room,
And then we said our good-byes. The visit was liniment,

The way the tea was coffee, a confusion plain and nice,
A balm for the nerves of two people living in the world,

A balm in the tenor of its language, which spoke through our hands
In the small lifting of our cups and our cakes to our lips.

It was simplicity, and held only what it needed.
It was a gentle visit, and I did not see her again.

If there is underwear, examine it closely

How To Read A Poem

by Al Zolynas

Come at it
the way you would
a pile of clothes on an empty beach at dawn.
Circle it slowly.
Hold the pieces up one by one.
Be a cop; ask questions.

If there are pockets, go through them.
The owner won't notice.
He is probably dead.
Are there any jewels? Fake? Real?
If there are footprints in the sand, where
do they lead? If to water,
don't jump to conclusions.
Have your men walk both ways
down the beach to check for prints leading out.

Is there underwear?
A pile of clothes on a beach
with no underwear is immediately suspect.
It could well be an inauthentic pile.

If there is underwear
examine it closely.  Be neither
embarrassed nor disgusted
by the stains.  If you find
a pair of jockeys and a brassiere,
be on guard, be suspicious.
It could be a false lead.  Remember
there is more here than meets the eye.

Pay close attention to labels,
but draw your conclusions
shrewdly, tentatively.  Be on the lookout
for patterns and combinations
out of the ordinary: Robert Hall
and Florsheim, pleated trousers
and cowboy boots, neckties and baseball caps.
These all point to a mind capable of great whimsy.

Always remember your basic assumption:
You can tell a man from the clothes he wears,
but only while he wears them.
While you are examining his clothes,
the owner may be riding in
on the crest of a wave
twenty miles down the coast, smiling
and mouthing the sound of his new name.

Your hands might touch me

During one of my Poetics graduate classes, we were given a cool assignment. The professor told us to choose a famous poet and write him or her a letter. The goal was to get advice from the writer about being a poet.

I wrote a letter to Marge Piercy. The professor told us not to hold our breath in terms of getting a reply. He said that poets can sometimes be big, egotistical jerks, and they may not want to indulge a kid who is writing for career advice.

But the cool thing is that I received a reply from Marge! She wrote to me right away. When I saw the letter in my mailbox, I nearly fainted from excitement.

But my enthusiasm quickly dissipated when I read her letter. In a nutshell, she told me to choose a more practical career. Writing poetry for a living was hard; it wouldn’t pay the bills. Marge had to work as a temp secretary to make a living.

The next time I attended a Marge Piercy poetry reading, I bought one of her books and asked her to sign it for me. Even though I was tempted to, I didn’t tell her I was the poetry student whose heart she crushed with her practical and sensible career advice. :-\


The Friend

by Marge Piercy

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?