Sunday, April 19, 2015

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light 
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Pe’a by Julie Dolcemaschio

The worker tosses the remains

into a vat, thoughts drift to

the driving rain and the walk home

The vat churns carcass, bone, skin and scale

into a compost fit for the strays that

line the road, while the meaty parts

make way into cans bound for the mainland

The fa’afafine (fah-fah fee-nay)

wait in the shadows as the worker

passes, bound for home, the rainsluiced divots

along the sheer cliffs, fern covered, channel

the Samoan deluge onto the pockmarked road

Colorful busses pass through the village as a quiet sea

churns unhurried, a turquoise cocoon for the pink coral

that sleeps underneath

On both sides of the road the trees sway, and an old

loosened coconut drops with a hollow thud

And the mangoes not yet yellowed and ripe

hang hard and green above the worker’s head

The river of water passes him with little notice

as he climbs the steep hill to his home

The windows, covered in worn and faded

lavalava blow inward away from the breeze

off the harbor

Alone, the worker peels the day from a worn

body, the rotten sea and blood and dried scales

shed like old skin and, home now and dry,

he stands before the mirror

and remembers

the boy who helped build a village

the teen who cleared debris from

the road after the hurricane in ‘03

the young man who heard the call

and for twelve days took to the mat

as the tafuga tapped ink into skin

using the bone of a boar

the shell of a turtle, and a hammer

The design, like angels wings

begin at the lower back

and end at the belly button

The great lattice work and symmetrical lines

crossing buttocks and rounding to the groin

Then the brutal inking down the thighs

Tap tap tap to below the knees,

coloring his legs like pants he will never remove again

The young American girl he met

in a dark bar in those young unhurried years

and courted the old fashioned way

wept on their wedding night

at first sight of his pe’a, believing

the tatu ended at his waist

seeing it only above his colorful lavalava

when he went without a shirt

Legs and buttocks covered in the ink of ages

Still toned, still sculpted, honoring the

pain and blood and sweat shed

for the honor of the pe’a

And his blond girl-bride still weeps

at his faith and his bravery

His pe’a a dark shadow against

Coffee skin in darkness

And a bright beacon in the light of day

The young girl waits and loves

and yearns, but she does not understand

the way of a Samoan man, whose dreams

did not include canned tuna and slave wages

The son of a village chief turns to the

smiling girl who awaits him

Bright and nude and unsoiled in his bed

In his best dreams he saw her, just this way

The moon on her hair, shining on her skin

and he believes that tomorrow will come again

And then again with just a smile

Only her smile

Friday, April 17, 2015

Elvis Redux by Nan Dillingham

is Elvis growing up in Tupelo 
in a close-knit family with little money
attending the Assembly of God Church 

music and preaching registering deeply 
moving to Memphis with his parents 
living in public housing and low-rent homes

roaming Beale Street for clothes 
absorbing black blues and gospel 
wearing his hair long 

letting his sideburns grow
roaming the halls of Humes High 
dreaming of singing with the Blackwood Brothers 

working after graduation at Parker Machinist Shop 
Precision Tool then Crown Electric Company 
driving a truck and going to night school 

dropping by Sun Studio
making a demo for his mother 
then later cutting “Big Boy” Cruddup’s

“That’s All Right, Mama”
backed by “Blue Moon of Kentucky” 
rebuffed by the Grand Ole Opry 

officials suggesting he go
back to driving a truck which he does 
but not before appearing on

“Louisiana Hayride,” the Opry’s rival 
meeting Colonel Tom Parker, ex-carney 
refusing his contract

walking into the induction center
speaking courteously 
“Sorry, Sir, I’d like to serve 

but my mama’s got this heart condition 
and my daddy needs me” 
holing up in his cab on a layover

reading the Bible
listening to pop tunes 
and country music radio

seeing Ann-Margret, Swedish sex kitten
on a billboard 
on a long haul to LA

lusting for a moment, then coming home
to his doe-eyed wife Pris
and daughter Lisa Marie who favors him 

all full lips and limpid eyes 
sometimes sermonizing
in a white frame church 

on Sunday morning
singing with the quartet
letting the sweet, sweet Spirit lift him up

sitting on the front porch swing 
of his doublewide
strumming his guitar

in the honeyed twilight
of grace land 
hair white like Vernon’s 

an ironic smile playing on his face
wondering only once in a while 
what might have been 

an angel hovering

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Windchime By Tony Hoagland

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Attic by Kathryn Stripling Byer

Not buried
but piece by piece carried
up narrow stairs
into the rafters,

her leavings
have summered through
forty-five seasons
of Bible-Belt heat.

I can stand only so much
of being up here,
on this late August afternoon,
dead-end of summer

in which I come looking
for her again.
In the usual places.
This jewelry casket,

for instance.  Inside it
she stares from the heart
of a foliate brooch
that I raise in a tangle

of gold chains I don't
try to loosen.  She's still
here: a face
I have used up

with wonderings.
High cheekbones.
A mouth slightly open

and inside that
no invitation
for me to speak out of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Little Boy and the Old Man by Shel Silverstein

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.

Monday, April 13, 2015

An Afternoon In The Stacks by Mary Oliver

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Way You Wear Your Hat by Ron Padgett

Boing, boing, boing
is the sound the exclamation point makes
when it leaps around the page alone
like Fred Astaire in a tux at night
when he thinks that Ginger Rogers
is mad at him and only his toes
will lighten the glumness. Oh!
what a beautiful way to start a dance,
just a slow slide of the toe
along glittering black marble.
And in her hotel boudoir, Ginger
in a white satin gown, arms
crossed and lips pursed —
hey, she is mad. And no wonder:
they are in different films
being shown at different theaters!
And they will never, ever meet again,
for they have tricked each other
out of existence.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Beach Glass by Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty—
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic—with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
ot touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass—
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Red Poem (written with my pink pen) by Dorothy Alves Holmes

My Red Poem (written with my pink pen)



Here I write a red poem,
Sophie Tucker red,
'The last of the red hot mama's red'
It is a hard Tap Dancing Red,
St. Valentine's red...
Cinnamon Apple scented red...
Georgio sweet smelling red,
Victoria Secret Red
Morning sunrise red,
Red Hot lipstick red
The blush on your cheeks red,
Happy Go Lucky Red,
Written with my flaming Pink Craylo Pen
On this October day...
Oh you kid! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What Do Women Want by Kim Addonizio and The Red Dress by Dorothy Parker

It just would never do for me to not include these two poems in honor of National  Poetry Month.

The Red Dress
by Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said
If I were grown and free,
I'd have a gown of reddest red                                          

As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,
Upon a Summer day,
And there'd be one to see me so
And flip the world away.

And he would be a gallant one,
With stars behind his eyes,
And hair like metal in the sun,
And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,
High honored in the town.
Now I am grown to womanhood....
I have the silly gown.


The Red Dress (or What do Women Want)
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ramona DeFelice Long's 40 Days of Women

Earlier, I told you about a wonderful listing of books Ramona DeFelice Long was sharing with her blog readers, and at Facebook.  Books written by and about women she had chosen from her own book shelf.
And now, here's the final list from her 40 Days of Women posts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stubbornly Green by Kathryn Kirkpatrick

An Ubi Sunt for Certain Aunts by Jennifer Horne

An Ubi Sunt for Certain Aunts
by Jennifer Horne

Those enervated, hypothyroidal, smoking southern ladies
clad in crisply ironed men’s shirts, slacks, canvas shoes,
never without a certain amount of frustration, life being
never as beautiful or perfect as they had been led to expect—
their wry humor, dry laugh, yet nothing but praise and charm
for the children: “Oh honey, oh sweetness, oh darlin’,”
as though we were the loveliest confections, too pretty to eat—
saved for themselves the scathing insults:
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” at little mistakes—spilled sugar,
a bad marriage, teaching us young to be infinitely generous
with others. I decided to retrieve their softly dropped r’s:
dinner party, otherwise, suppertime, motherhood,
their language the patois of defeat, a desuetude I rejected.
They mostly died before seventy, their permanent disappointments
turned inward, though nothing as showy as cancer, heart attack,
stroke. Just a gradual shrinkage, the slow flaking of paint
on an old house, its imperceptibly liquid panes.
Oh ladies, I would like to clasp you to my grown-up bosom
(a word you used freely, it used to embarrass me no end),
smooth the puzzlement from the cracked glaze of your faces,
and soothe, “Not stupid. Honey. Sweetness. Beautiful aunts,
aunts of my youth.” I see you, in mind’s eye, sighing back at me,
a chorus wreathed in smoke, languid movements of the wrist:
“Oh darlin’,” you begin, “Let me tell you about the time . . . ”
Lost. Unsalvageable. Lovely.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Monday Riding a Pink Pony

Today was a good day.

I got to ride a little pink pony.

This little pony sits in front of The Incredible Toy Store between Boone and Blowing Rock, NC, and I have wanted to hop on it for the longest time.

Today was the day.

getting on wasn't too tough


When it came time to get off . . . 

Well, that was a horse of another color.

And by the time I did get off (with NO help for Donald, who was busy taking pictures and laughing himself into hysteria), I was so tickled I could hardly walk

Reason 9,782,000 why I love being married to Donald Barley.


Photo by William Christenberry by Kate Daniels

Photo by William Christenberry
by Kate Daniels
Akron, Alabama, circa 1960

This is what it was like to grow up
down there, then. A pretty place
but desolate. The signs that are supposed
to tell you what to do, or be, or buy
are faded to the point of inarticulation.
You surmise people used to talk
about everything you need to know
but have grown silent for some reason.
A black man sat down in a soda shop
to eat a bite, and terrified, it seemed, the patrons.
I was there in that tense silence,
licking my strawberry cone, and it was
just like this picture of kudzu in winter,
the prettiness all covered over
with something growing too fast,
enshrouding the landscape with a sinewy
fabric that lives off the lives of others.
Or this next one of the house and car
in Akron, Alabama. The house is beat-up
and rusty, but habitable. You could live there
fine until something happens – a cross
flaming on the uncut lawn, or your housegirl’s husband
with his foot shot off. That blue car’s
been in the yard forever just waiting
for you to need it, and now you do.
So you head out, past the washer on the porch
and down the walk. You get in and realize
you’re not going anywhere: it’s up on blocks,
overrun by families of mice and birds. Why
did you never notice that before? How stuck here
you are with the blank sky and the fallen fences, the awful
unexplained silences of the South.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

"Oh, Kaye!" is talking about fuzzy faces

First Sunday of the month is one of my favorite days.

It's my day to play at Jungle Red, and today I'm tackling the very serious issue of fuzzy faces. 

I hope you'll drop by. You just might see a fuzzy face you recognize, maybe even from the back cover of that mystery you're reading right now.

Happy Easter

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Variation on a Theme by King David by L. B. Thompson

One of my favorite poems, and one I post here every year.

Variation on a Theme by King David

Praise to you!
Praise to you my snappy love!

Praise you in clean socks on a Queens-bound
train; praise you
for your famous avocado
sandwiches; Praise you from Brooklyn to blasphemy!

I've called the mayor to praise you; & a third-
base coach; even
that no-neck accountant
who doesn't have the decency to nod hello
has agreed to praise you!

Praise you with bongos and fine fancy
tea; praise you
with rhumba, tango & marmelade; praise
you with your knickers at your knees!

I praise you on Flag Day, & on whichever equinox
allows for the balancing of eggs;
I praise you with eggs!
Brown ones & jumbo & Faberge Tiffany blue!

On the white of your wrist I praise you;
on the vaccuumed throw rug; I praise you full-
page on Sunday! With faxes
& foxgloves & brushed cotton sheets;
with sky-write & timbrel &

wink! Let every soul
in the Battery Tunnel honk
her horn to praise you! Praise you
with ripe limes & wrestling mats;
praise you tax-free with agates and tin foil
& all sparkly things!

Praise you with foggy spectacles and Wisconsin green cheese!
Praise you to the afternoon of orthopedic sneakers;
praise you from poinsettia to piccolo!
Praise you & praise you & praise you!

My love,
from Brooklyn to blasphemy I praise you!

--L. B. Thompson

Friday, April 3, 2015

Memory Has Depth But No Bottom by Al Maginnex

Memory Has Depth But No Bottom
by Al Maginnex

I am not speaking now of the girls I knew
     who babysat and worked at the theater
or drug store, but who in summer saw
     their local glory eclipsed by the girls
home from college and bored with everything,
     their thick paperbacks more weighty
for sitting unopened while they unfastened
     the tops of their bathing suits, to turn their backs
into planes of unbroken tan, and lit
     cigarettes beneath the disapproving stare
of mothers and friends of mothers. If their talk
     of football games and rum punch made them
the town’s fallen daughters, it was a fall
     with a soft landing. Already I knew
the world was cleaved and cleaved again
     by borders invisible and impossible to cross.
The depth and velocity of the scorn meant
     to drive away anyone not invited
into their coconut-scented kingdom of skin and smoke
     radiated even to the deep end of the pool
where we lined up for the diving board.
     Our game that summer was to toss pennies
into the deep end and dive after them, trying
     to retrieve all we had thrown
until we were tossing more than we could ever bring up.
     I waited in line to dive, learned to stay down
so long water’s silence was a keening, then a roar
     in my ears, until my lungs scorched for want
of air. Some days I would go to the shade and fall
     on the wide shore of a book and read until
my fingers unwrinkled. All summer, the daughters lay
     in the graceful repose of the fallen, motionless
as photographs of stillnesses like the Sphinx

     or the pyramids, but stillnesses of flesh,
and of flesh that would not molder as summer turned
     a corner and the reek of chlorinated water
took our skin. The bath-warm water itself became
     a sentence, no longer the enticement of early June,
and stuck in mid-corruption the daughters began
     to stretch and long for the airy cool of a classroom,
the damp closeness of a mixer, for movement
     that would divide them from these bodies
trapped in the town where they had been born,
     where their names still cast a shadow. In the stare
of one afternoon’s heat, the daughter of the undertaker,
     a bent man who played the piano for hours when he drank,
rose and took the narrow, quivering stage
     of the diving board. A short run, and she rose,
arms spread, as close to the shape of a cross
     as humans can come, no longer fallen but soaring
until she turned and entered the water
     straight as a plumb line, barely a splash
to mark her passage. She swam
     slow as royalty to the ladder, reclaimed
the spot she had left moment before. No pennies had been
     thrown for her to find, but she could have
claimed every one. She returned to college,
     then vanished, as some daughters did, in dark
pools of rumor, living in a teepee somewhere in Arizona
     or Canada. Ten years ago I heard she was selling
real estate in Atlanta. Whatever else we are,
     we are mostly unremembering water.
And the twenty percent of her that is
     not water does not remember
how she rose and turned, plunging into memory
     she has become, like those pennies,
more precious each time she surfaces.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Possibilities by Beckian Fritz Goldberg

The Possibilities
Beckian Fritz Goldberg

After a wife’s death a man may talk
to his horse with a great tenderness
as if, just this morning, he had tried on
her pink slipper. And if he has no horse
he may crack his window a little
wider when it lightly rains to confirm
the roofs and trees are made
of paper. If there is no rain
he may make himself a meal at midnight,
sweet artichokes and Danish cheese,
a glass of red wine. If there is
no red, then white. He may suck the knife
clean with his tongue. Later
lying awake he may hear the wild lung
of a motorcycle far off on a far road.
If there is no motorcycle, a dog
trying for any syllable in any known
language. Something falling suddenly in
the closet, according to some law.
Nearness in the dark is a kind of beauty
though it is only a lampshade, a shoulder
of the walnut chair. If there is no chair,
then a shelf. A shelf of books with the devil’s
violet fedora tossed on top. Or something
exotic from the sea, manta ray
like the pulse in the ball of his foot.
A man may walk ten steps behind
his life. It may be sorrow of fear.
He may see her back like two doves rushing
up where a boy has flung a handful
of pebbles. If no pebbles, leaves
where a masked prowler hunches, his belt of
lockpicks, his bag of velvet like the one
from which memory snatches. These are
the possibilities, the immaculate
like miracles which are nothing
in themselves, but in this world a sign
of angels, ghosts, supernatural beings
who watch us. Who listen. Who sometimes
helplessly let us stumble on
their pyramids, their crude observatories
or let us, generation after
generation, speak to the broken horse
of the human heart.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April - National Poetry Month

Stop by during the month of April.

I'll be posting some of my favorite pieces to honor National Poetry Month.

Some I've posted before, some will be new.

All have touched me.

Sunday, March 29, 2015