Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing Prompt: Somber Grey

After reading a poem by my good friend and poet, Bethany Carrington, I was struck by the imagery of the falling snow, the grey skies, the quiet comfort of driving through the country with a friend.

Then, as this poem sat on my brain while I whittled away the moments of my day while listening to the random mix of the following songs, a story began to take shape.  The story is half-formed, and the only similarity it has with my friend's poem is the image of the greyness.  While her poem is comforting, this character's life is disconcerting.  She is traveling where she does not wish to go.  The snow, for her, is a compression, something that binds her wings, prevents her (or at least delays her) from the freedom she seeks.  This character's name is Somber Grey.

I have attached here the songs that were playing as the "soundtrack" to this movie - or poem cycle - or prose-poems - whatever you want to call it.  I just call them "notes" but I offer them now to whomever would like to flesh out the story a bit.  I've given just the briefest glimpse into characters.  I invite others to take and embellish (or even change completely) as they see fit.

Somber Grey

Arcade Fire – Half Light I

Her name is Summer Grey.  She’s 16 years old but hasn’t started driving yet.  She has “changed” her name to Somber Grey, because that’s more in line with how she feels.

Tenth Avenue North – Times

Scene of driving through the wintry landscape.  Somber in the back seat with her younger brothers, 14 and 8 years old.   We see this through her headphones, we see them talking, the younger bouncing up and down in his seat, obviously irritating the older brother.  We also see the mom in the passenger seat, her head leaning against the window.   There is a tension between her and the father.  If they speak, it is terse and brief.

Thelonious Monk – In a Walled Bed

Driving up to the to the house - they're spending Christmas with family who live in a suburb outside 
of Chicago.  She hardly knows them, but her parents keep in close contact.  Since it is a long drive, the plan is to sleep over the night at the house and drive home in the morning, something of which Somber Grey is less than thrilled.

The Cure – It’s Over

meeting her cousins – all of them are younger, one boy in between the ages of her two brothers, and one girl, around 5 or 6

Nina Presson – Black Winged Bird

Meeting her grandfather, who lives with the aunt and uncle, because he cannot live on his own.   He’s not very mobile, mainly sits in the chair, and is generally curmudgeonly.

Thenewno2 – Shelter

During the waning afternoon, the cousins and her brothers want her to go outside and play with them in the snow.  She doesn’t want to.  They go out to have fun.

Talking Heads – I’m Not in Love

(don't know what happens here)

Wailin’ Jennys – Storm Comin’

Somber walks into the kitchen, sees her father and her aunt. Her father’s back is toward her at the door, and her aunt is standing behind her father.  Somber can barely see her around the wide expanse of his back and shoulders.  The aunt, sensing someone has come into the room, looks around the shoulder to see Somber, and then turns away, wiping tears from her eyes. 
Somber’s dad turns around to see her.  His face is stern, like stone.  He walks past her,  brusquely, toward the other room.

Third Day – Movin’ on Up

Somber goes out of the room and gets her brothers and cousins together to go out for a snowball fight and sliding on the ice that has blanketed the street.  This is a joyous scene, full of fun that only kids can have, rambunctiously bumping around in the ice and snow.   Somber is determined to have some sort of fun in this scene.  This is the only time we actually see her smile, and she has a beautiful smile.  Even though she has forced some happiness into this day, still, she is happy for this brief moment.  

Beltuner – Tikai Chaj

Aunt sets the table, and this scene is one in which all the adults are trying their best to have a “normal”  Christmas dinner.  The aunt and the mom move around each other, helping each other bring in the dishes, yet they move as though they are two boxers in the ring, circling each other, waiting for an opening to take a jab.

Keane – Sea Fog

Granpa takes call from either old army buddy or from a prodigal son.  Image of him laughing, for the first time that day.

“river rolls the stone and it’s rolling me” is the line that really makes Somber Grey feel a part of this house, just like the apple that was embedded in the shell of Gregor Samsa in “The Metamorphosis” that’s how she feels here : like a stone embedded in the walls, and if she stays, eventually she will rot the entire foundation.

Ricardo Arjona – Piel Pecado

(again, don't know what happens here)

Wailin’ Jennys – Bird Song

opening presents

?? - Auld Triangle   (by the way I don't know the artist to this version.  The Pogues do an excellent version, and even Brendan Behan - the poet who wrote it - sings it a-capella, which is grand.  However, this version is more melodic than the other two versions, and better fits the tone that I envision for this scene.  It's more mellow, more somnambulent . . .)

While everybody is winding down – the kids playing with their presents, and the parents sharing drinks, Somber steps out again into the night.  She looks up into the cloud-covered sky as though looking for stars, almost willing them to break through the clouds to shine a little light, however slight, down onto this street.

Wailin’ Jennys – Asleep at Last

Somber looks in on her brothers and boy cousins, who have finally crashed.  She watches her youngest brother, still restless, even in his sleep.   That boy never stops moving.   She goes back into the room she will share with the girl cousin.  She watches her breathing.  We see Somber watch the girl and in this scene we get a glimpse of Somber in the future, when she will be a mother, carefully watching over her children as they sleep, and then, and only then, she will be able to rest, knowing that the children are safe.

Tears for Fears – Song of Sorrow

Somber has a dream, and in the dream we suddenly are bathed in color.  As the rest of the scenes have been shadowy, either grey or sepia-toned, this scene is a bright splash of various incandescent colors, almost like Technicolor films.  She dreams of flying through the bright blue sky, over clouds that are flecked with gold light, reflecting and shining.  She dips down through open fields, emerald grass, flanked by trees of kaleidoscopic colors, rotating and vibrating.  Everything is alive, everything is moving.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Morning – breakfast – strangely, things are lighter today, happier.   Somber’s mom  and dad seem to have reconciled something.   His hand lightly on her waist, with a gentleness we have not seen before.  Even the two women seem to have a better relationship.  Somber’s uncle seems to be more relaxed, and Grandpa is still blissfully happy, still talking about his old army stories that he had recounted with his old army buddy the night before.

Wailin’ Jennys – The Last Goodbye

Driving away - the mood in the car has changed.  Or maybe it hasn't.   You tell me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Verble at the Counter: Why "Fairytale of New York" is the best Christmas song . . .

This song has enchanted me for years, not just because it's a perfect piece of music, but because of what it means on a more spiritual scale

It's all about taking second chances and failing.  It's about relationships that start with dreams and fantasies that come crashing to the ground.  It's about our addictions, our inabilities, our disabilities, our fortitudes, our desires, our misplaced intentions.

It reminds me of a sort of anti-Song of Solomon.  That book of the Bible is a call-and-response between two lovers, in their bedchambers, out in the streets, even wandering through the fields.  All through that book there is a chorus of singers encouraging the lovers, cheering them on.  It's almost like a Greek play.

This song takes that literary device and turns it on its head.  The two lovers are long past redemption, yet they feel trapped by each other.   They despise each other because they remind each other persistently of their failure.   The chorus (The boys of the NYPD choir) are singing on in the background, not cheering them on, just spinning the world on its normal way.  The world continues without us.

Yet, it's Christmas Day, and the bells are ringing out, and these two can not hear it.  The bells are there, the day has come, yet they are so numb to the advent of the Saviour and the King that it's just a dead refrain.  They are lost in the despair of being alone together.

That's what I love about this Christmas song: because it shows us who we are as humans.  It shows us of what we miss in the full experience of life and the full experience of what this day truly means.

So . . . Happy Christmas everyone!  Have yourselves some cheer, celebrate the birth of God wrapped in human skin, and my prayer is that you never wind up like Shane MacGowan!  ;-)

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
Won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars
Big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on the corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Living there almost dead
On a drip in that bed

You scum bag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God
It's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well, so could anyone
You took my dreams
From me when I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing 'Galway Bay'
And the bells are ringing
Out for Christmas day

Song performed by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
written by Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan

Monday, December 22, 2014

Poem of the Day: Tom Traubert's Blues by Tom Waits

Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)

Tom Waits

Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did, I've got what I paid for now
See you tomorrow, hey Frank, can I borrow a couple of bucks from you
To go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

I'm an innocent victim of a blinded alley
And I'm tired of all these soldiers here
No one speaks English, and everything's broken, and my Stacys are soaking wet
To go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

Now the dogs are barking and the taxi cab's parking
A lot they can do for me
I begged you to stab me, you tore my shirt open,
And I'm down on my knees tonight
Old Bushmill's I staggered, you'd bury the dagger
In your silhouette window light go
To go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

Now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I've kissed her
And the one-armed bandit knows
And the maverick Chinamen, and the cold-blooded signs,
And the girls down by the strip-tease shows, go
Waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

No, I don't want your sympathy, the fugitives say
That the streets aren't for dreaming now
And manslaughter dragnets and the ghosts that sell memories,
They want a piece of the action anyhow
Go waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

And you can ask any sailor, and the keys from the jailor,
And the old men in wheelchairs know
And Mathilda's the defendant, she killed about a hundred,
And she follows wherever you may go
Waltzing Mathilda, waltzing Mathilda,
You'll go waltzing Mathilda with me

And it's a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace,
And a wound that will never heal
No prima donna, the perfume is on an
Old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
And goodnight to the street sweepers, the night watchmen flame keepers
And goodnight to Mathilda, too

Overread at Table 3: Notes from Underground Revisited


and then people are always asking why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and good things to happen to bad people and truly truly truly I say to you people! people! you don’t really understand and it’s gonna sound harsh and it’s gonna be harsh for you to hear but the simple truth simply stated is this:

it ain’t about good or bad.

not even a bit.

it’s about salvation.

yeah yeah now I know you’re all p’o’ed because you want to wear your salvation like a big ol’ football jersey to show the world that you play for the wining team, but it’s not about that either.   You accept Jesus, you’re saved.  BAM! You’re going to Heaven.  Hallelujah and all that jazz.

You being good is your football jersey.   Not your acceptance.  You waving that flag shows that you obey Him and by being happy by obeying Him, that let’s OTHER people want to wear that jersey and BAM! they come to Christ.

Now, all this stuff about bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people, that has nothing to do with your salvation, your relationship with God, and what you have to do with the gifts that He gives you.  All that other stuff is a direct result of what other people are doing with THEIR salvation (or lack of it), their relationship (or lack of it) with God, and what THEY are doing (or not) with the gifts that He has given them.

So, when it comes down to why does the good/bad etc happen, well, I kinda summarize it like this:

That’s life.

Life is shit.

Shit happens.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poem of the Day: America 2014

America 2014

America I have given you 44 years and you are nothing.
America I’ve got 28 cents in my savings account and a nineteen-hundred-dollar a month mortgage.
America you ring with joy at watching the smiling faces of the moneyed lenders
tell me to make my pledge to NPR in my will.
America when I’m gone I will leave you nothing but the stain in my underwear.

America please let the border kids stay.
They came crawling through the desert on their knees, or by clinging to
to the hard rails of the Beast, rumbling through the furnace of a merciless Chihuahuan summer.
Now you keep them in dog cages in McAllen, and AM Hate Radio Fearmongers call these children
                                call them
                                call them
                drug mules
                                call them
                                call them
                a flood.

America I still have not told you what Uncle Ronnie did to Archbishop Romero.

I took my son to a hospital to get a two-second x-ray of his hand to find out
why he’s only five-foot-three at the age of 14, and you
sent me a bill for two-thousand-six-hundred-eighty-three-dollars and fifty-one-cents.

America these are the same hospitals that
dump decrepit old white women out of moving cars in front of run-down clinics in Los Angeles.
These are the same hospitals that send the uninsured into the streets of Galveston
with tumors on their spine malignant enough to paralyze arms.
The same hospitals, dear America, that let Anna Brown die in a jail cell in St Louis,
when the emergency room could have stopped that blood clot from reaching her heart
with some aspirin and a tiny dose of humanity.

America I’m not naming names, but
Israel – really?
Saudi Arabia – really?
Are these the two allies you want when you try to call yourself a Christian nation?

America I choke myself silly, laughing daily at your absurdities,
that you wear like baubles around your fingers that dig
deep into my pockets and pull out my sensibilities.

America you are your governors stump speeches in your Baptist megachurches.
America you are the fading glacier of the Sierra Nevada
America you are the algae bloom in Lake Erie.
                Toledo can’t drink the water any more, turn ‘em over, they’re done.

America you are a hornet’s nest that kills pregnant women.
Your pets take selfies and then their owners fight over the copyright.
You let your husbands shoot their estranged wives in the face with a shotgun in
the early morning
in the parking lot of high schools
in your suburban suites.

America your factories have been converted into Ikeas,
America I think you have run out of ideas.
You are just not funny any more, and I want to cancel my subscription.

America do you hear me banging on my pot and my pan?
America can you see me through the stained-blood window in the mist of the dirty rain?

America will you please let me know the time and date when you plan to
blow the lid off the top of the last mountain?
I wanna take a picture, upload it to Instagram,
tell everyone: this wasn’t a wimper –

this baby went out with a bang. 


Poem of the day: What the Businessman Said by Allison Cobb

the business
man I shook
hands with
drinking local
whiskey at the
party Christmas
winter I mean non
religious for the
group where
his wife
donates her
hours bought
just bought
an old Victorian cheaper
than a Craftsman in
one of Portland’s
oldest best said
cost the cost
of doing
business one
cost of
business all of
life of costs
a cost the business
man made
exercise machines
in China for
the bodies of
to sweat upon
the muscles heart
and blood vessels
the lungs he said
they never
even counted
costs the labor
lives so cheap it was
the metal minerals
the plastic
parts they had
to calculate the labor
lives so
cheap they didn’t
even count

Copyright © 2014 by Allison Cobb. Used with permission of the author.

About This Poem

“The ‘Craftsman’ style of architecture grew out of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, which was a reaction against the Industrial Revolution’s devaluing of workers and individual craft. It also was a reaction against the opulence of Victorian style—and aimed at making well-designed homes available for the middle class.”
—Allison Cobb

Monday, December 8, 2014

Overheard at the Counter: Mrs. Gherulous tells about getting gas at 6am

I was getting almost done pumping gas, it was dark and I was the only person there, then an old shady car park to pump gas… then the guy tells me.. excuse me mem do you have any spare change for coffee… I can’t tell you how many things went in to my head but for some reason I was not afraid and I told this guy… go inside and get what you need…

So he did and got coffee I told him get some bread… so he did and I when inside and I pay for his food, as we were leaving he thank me several times and he said I do good deeds to other people 2 when I can… I told them not to worry about it and I told him to have a bless day and I don’t remember exactly what I said but was on this lines: God is with you pray when you can…

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Overheard at Table 5: My Dad and the Dishwasher

"So my dad was putting all the dishes in the dishwasher and they still had all this crap stuck to 'em and I says 'Dad you know you gotta clean 'em off first' and my dad says, 'Why the hell I gotta clean 'em off first it's a dishWASHER not a dishwasher-UPPER-AFTER' and I tell him, That's just the way it works you gotta clean 'em off first.'

"So he says 'Well then that just means it's not doing it just we oughta just fire the damn thing.'  and that's my dad's answer to everything - if it ain't working, fire it.  So that's why I just told mom that dad wants to fire the dishwasher."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Poem of the Day: When the earth holds nothing

When the earth holds nothing
for you,
Life is full of empty boxes
        left on dusty shelves
in detached garages with tilted doors.

Walk down these streets,
stricken with
the silence brought on
by the oppressive weight of indecision.

Your dreams have fled,
in search of someone else's
night sky.

The trees drop their limbs
in a sullen hush,
and not even the neighbor's
dogs have the
strength to bark at
these days.

Purple sky

you turn and walk back
toward the garage.

Time to dust off those damn
time to straighten up that tilted door,
time to fill those boxes

with your words.

If the world holds nothing for you,
let the world know that
at the very least,
you hold something for the world.

MR 2014-1202

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Overread at the Counter: Section 1 of "Your Call Will Be Answered in the Order in which It Was Received"

All agents are currently busy assisting other callers.
Your call is very important to us.
Please stay on the line.
Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.


Kennedy died generations ago,
and yet the breadth of his smile still ripples through our culture
like a wave of sound that
has become a low murmur, below
and can only be felt,

                like the dull thud of the bass
                                from the box
                                                of the car
                                                                that slides beside,

driven by a whiteboy in a Red Sox cap,
wearing gold chains and a
mouth full of someone else’s attitude.

Ask not what you can do for your country,
ask what bell this country
will toll

for you.

from "Your Call Will Be Answered in the Order in which It Was Received"
by MR 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Overheard at the Counter: Verble's Quick Guide to Tom Waits

Verble Gherulous’s Brief Introduction to the Mad Mad World of Tom Waits

First, one should know that there are two Tom Waits:

1)      Piano Blues Tom Waits


2) Pure Gravel Static Tom Waits. 

Both are absolute genius.

A start with the “transitional” albums (late 70’s/early 80s) between the two is probably the best way to get a true appreciation of the entire oeuvre.  Personally, I would suggest listening to the following albums in order:

Album #1) Blue Valentines.  My personal favourite.  Pure poetry, rainslicked streets, and whiskeysoaked vocals.

Album #2) Rain Dogs.  *THE* transitional album, although some may think that  actually is . . .

Album #3) Swordfishtrombones.   This album is suburbia seen through the eyes of Picasso.

Album #4) Foreign Affairs. Tight mysteries and midnight road movies.

Album #5) Bone Machine. Suffering madness, beautiful delusion.

Album #6) Small Change.  Punks, pimps, tramps, thieves, such beautiful tragedy.

Album #7) Mule Variations. Picture American Gothic drenched in sepia tones.

Album #8) Nighthawks at the Diner. An intimate evening with a brilliant magician at a piano.

With these albums tucked under your belt, you will have the essential Tom Waits.  All the rest is just gravy. Delicious gravy with a haunted aftertaste of blood and gin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Overread at Booth 3: Economy in the Time of Ebola

Economy in the Time of Ebola

In a market in Monrovia a woman sits on a square carpet,
weaving multicoloured bands of beads into bracelets and necklaces,
which sit untouched throughout the long afternoon,
now that these are the days when no one wants to buy,
because to buy means

to touch something.

A young man, 19, owns his own art studio,
where he sells carvings of horses, paintings of streams and
of mountains.  Some days, he makes the two hour walk
from his house outside of the city, to do nothing more
than to sweep the floor of the shop that no one enters,
because to enter means

to breathe the same air.

A lawyer sits at his favourite table
in a bar.  He hasn't been here for weeks,
but he is glad to be back now.  Glad to be able
to get out of the house, to move around, to watch
his favourite football team, Arsenal, playing on the television
propped above the bar.  There is a dispenser
just outside the doors of the bar.  It dispenses a
cleansing solution of bleach and water.

It washes every hand clean.


Overheard at Booth 3: Snakes and Earrings

Snakes and Earrings

Hitari Kanehewa

"Frankly, all I remember about this book is thinking how can someone make tongue-splitting so erotic?"


"Yeah, and why am I so interested in this girl who basically sounds like she just wants to become a snake, and I remember feeling that the snake tattoos were actually moving, slithering, and it was just like, should I be reading this on the bus, in the middle of all these people going to work?"

"You know they made a movie out the book, right?"

"Kick-in' . . . adding it to my Netflix queue!" 

Overread at Table Two: Rough Draft of Short Story


His feet fell hard along the path.  He thought to himself that maybe it was the running shoes.  Maybe he needed to check with someone to see if it was really true that there were special shoes just for jogging.  These that he also used to mow the lawn felt as though the sides of his feet were coming unsealed from the soles.

He slowed down, almost tripping over the lip of one concrete slab rising above another.  It was still dark, almost too dark to see.  Yet he knew it was there, and accounted for it.

As he breathed heavily, he put his hands to his sides and followed the path as it began to wind around the lake, off Peak Hill Road, into the neighbourhood.  He heard his breath, coming hard in expulsive gasps.  He felt the rolls above the seam of his gym shorts, and he tried to imagine if they were gradually lessening in size.  Were they smaller than yesterday?  Was that possible to gage?

The ducks floated on the like, immobile, like short, thick tree limbs.

He looked up at the sky, noticed the brilliance of the stars.  Orion was the only constellation he knew, and it stood as the centerpiece.   He knew there should be more stars, and he knew that there were no clouds, and he also knew (because he had read somewhere) that it is not so much smog that clouds the stars as light pollution.  As the city worked its way toward Cinco Hill, there would be many more light, and these stars, shining high above him, would be pushed out, further out, toward Sealing.  Or even to Toqueville.

So he decided to enjoy them now, at this moment, in this place, where the night was still inky black.  He realized then the wonderful blanket of silence that surrounded him.  He appreciated that.  He thought to himself that in one hour and a half, almost exactly, he would be in the middle of a sea of red lights, and a quick blink and a move over, and the sound of 18-wheelers belching air brakes and diesel, and with the radio on the news and then work would be nothing but a constant gravel crush of wall-to-wall noise

but now.  Here.  Nothing.  Beautiful nothing.

A duck quacked.  Flipped its feathers.  Some water spun off.   Then, it returned to floating motionless alongside the other ducks, all motionless in the inky waters of the black lake.

“Shake off that dream, duck,” he said, smiling.

Then, he started up again his jog.  His feet were heavy but he felt light.

Another jogger approached him from around the curve.

He never saw the knife.   Nor did he ever know how many times the blade jabbed deep into his belly.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Friday LOVE EP
Boy Least Likely To – Saddle Up
Rogue Wave – Christians in Black
Big Data – Dangerous
Sunset Rubdown – Silver Moons
Ace Enders – Souls Like the Wheels
Doyle Bramhall - Lost in the Congo
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim feat. Kevin Moon Loh – God Draws Straight
The Cure – Friday, I’m in Love

Ellie Goulding – How Long Will I Love You

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Open-Mike Thursday: MR poem-of-the-day

Weave in, weave out,
looking for one single moment of gastrointestinal clarity,
I don't really care for your charity,
but I'll take it just the same,

the Beats were a motley crew with no fixed point star,
just a mass of hazy stares, glaring out into the abyss
when no abyss existed, it was merely a playing field

for the thought dreams to be seen
heads in guillotines,

that's right, Bobby, that's right, you come
right out of that muddled mess and
bring some sense to the door,

Interesting how the great American songwriters
emerged out of the Great Depression Oklahoma dust

like the primordial firstborn Adam
walking toward the 20th century from the fog
of the nothing-that-was.

the heartbeat of America is a vein of poetry
that flows through the land, and these
poets, erstwhile musicians, these poets
merely tap into the vein,
like a sideways shock into the shale
and let the poetry ooze out through through
the pores of the earth and spray
into the air, the gas gets flared, and the
words lost in the edit are the
putrified water that gets shot
back into the aquifer.

sometimes the people can't tell the poetry
from the dredge,

that's where the internet comes in.

If you're reading these words in a book, then
buddy, that's poetry.

If you're reading these words online, then
you're wasting your time.

Go read a book.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Poem of the Day: Poem in the Modernist Manner by David Lehman

Poem in the Modernist Manner
David Lehman, 1948

They were cheap but they were real,
the old bistros. You could have a meal,
drink the devil’s own red wine, and contemplate
the sawdust on the floor, or fate,
as the full-fed beast kicked the empty pail.

The conspiracy of the second rate
continued to reverberate.
Everyone wanted to get his licks.
Everyone said it was a steal.

So the girl and I stayed out late.
We walked along the shore
and I campaigned some more.
And the city built with words not bricks
burned like a paper plate.

About This Poem

“‘Poem in the Modernist Manner’ is from a book of poems in progress called Poems in the Manner Of. I began writing the book twelve years ago—on the principle that when I write as if I were someone else, something good may happen. I have written poems in the manner of Cavafy, Neruda, Baudelaire, Holderlin, Rilke, Auden, Mayakovsky, Dorothy Parker, Emerson, Dickinson, Yeats, Frost, Borges, Bukowski, W. C. Williams, Robert Lowell, and ‘Wallace Stevens as rewritten by Gertrude Stein,’ among others. ‘Poem in the Modernist Manner’ sneaks in allusions to Auden and Eliot, and the atmosphere and attitude owe something, I think, to the modernists of the Pound generation.”
—David Lehman

David Lehman is the author of New and Selected Poems (Scribner, 2013). He teaches poetry and literature in the New School Writing Program in New York City.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Poem of the Day: Black Horizons by Carl Sandburg

Black Horizons
Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967

Black horizons, come up.
Black horizons, kiss me.
That is all; so many lies; killing so cheap;
babies so cheap; blood, people so cheap; and
land high, land dear; a speck of the earth
costs; a suck at the tit of Mother Dirt so
clean and strong, it costs; fences, papers,
sheriffs; fences, laws, guns; and so many
stars and so few hours to dream; such a big
song and so little a footing to stand and
sing; take a look; wars to come; red rivers
to cross.
Black horizons, come up.
Black horizons, kiss me.

Published in 1924.  As I read this I thought, ‘ My God, my God, a poem 90 years old and still speaks to this very day, this immediate minute.’  We are such a poor, wretched race that can never find a way to stop shedding these rivers of blood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poem of the Day: Rapture: Lucus by Tracy Brimhall

Posters for the missing kapok tree appear on streetlights
offering a reward for its safe return. I hate to spoil it,

but the end of every biography is death. The end of a city
in the rainforest is a legend and a lost expedition. The end

of mythology is forgetfulness, placing gifts in the hole
where the worshipped tree should be. But my memory

lengthens with each ending. I know where to find the lost
mines of Muribeca and how to cross the Pacific on a raft

made of balsa. I know the tree wasn’t stolen. She woke from
her stillness some equatorial summer evening by a dream

of being chased by an amorous faun, which was a memory,
which reminded her that in another form she had legs

and didn’t need the anxious worship of people who thought
her body was a message. She is happier than the poem tattooed

on her back says she is, but sadder than the finches nesting
in her hair believe her to be. I am more or less content to be

near her in October storms, though I can’t stop thinking that
with the right love or humility or present of silk barrettes

and licorice she might become a myth again in my arms, ardent
wordless, needing someone to bear her away from the flood.

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Copyright © 2014 by Traci Brimhall. Used with permission of the author.

About This Poem

“This poem is part of a series I’m working on that mythologizes the town in Brazil where my mother was born and raised. Mysterious, and possibly miraculous things begin to occur there, and every resident has a different explanation. The speaker believes the reason for the miracles is a hamadryad nymph with a poem tattooed on her back, who ran away rather than be worshipped.”
—Traci Brimhall

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W. W. Norton, 2012). She teaches at Kansas State University and lives in Manhattan, Kansas.

Most Recent Book by Brimhall

(W. W. Norton, 2012)

"Song" by Brigit Pegeen Kelly


"Diana of the Hunt" by Forceythe Willson


"Like Any Good American" by Brynn Saito



Launched during National Poetry Month in 2006, Poem-a-Day features new and previously unpublished poems by contemporary poets on weekdays and classic poems on weekends.