Friday, July 25, 2014

The Morning Reading: " I lived in the first century of these wars"

photo by Sergey Ponomarev

- Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.


Friday, July 4, 2014

The Morning Reading: "Who dreamed for every child an even chance cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not."

Of History and Hope
by Miller Williams

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet—
but looking through their eyes, we can see
what our long gift to them may come to be.
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Morning Reading: El Tigre Market

El Tigre Market, 2nd Street, San Bernardino, CA 2006 by Thomas McGovern
 El Tigre Market 

- Juan Delgado

As apparent as the rest, the asphalt cracks
are crowded with yellow weeds, the rust goes
beyond its bleeding color, and the lot's rails,
battered by cars, cast larger bars by noon.
On one side of the market someone painted
a row of flower pots, hanging geraniums
for the locals who must now go across town.
As apparent as the rest, El Tigre walks upright,
wears a tiny sombrero and sarape, and pushes
a grocery cart full of food. His painted stripes
are starting to flake like the bounty he wheels
for the families drifting into the parking lot
off 3rd Street and next to the train station
still waiting to the retrofitted for the big one.

from Juan Delgado & Thomas McGovern: Vital Signs (Heyday Books)

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Morning Reading: "My Father As House Builder"

Robert Peters (October 20,1924- June 13, 2014) by Don Bachardy
My Father As House Builder
- Robert Peters

Cedar poles skidded by horse
from swamp to highland, stripped
of bark, hauled to the house-site
on a knoll near the county road.
A pattern in the sand
for two rooms and kitchen, drawn
with a sapling and a string.
Cedar poles adzed flat,
other Poles notched for walls.
We chinked logs with swamp moss
secured by slats, then plastered.
We puttied the windows.
Scrap lumber for the roof and floors.
A cellar hole in the living room,
the sand fetched up by buckets
and dumped in a marsh hole
filled in for a garden plot.
The upper story, hip-roofed, low,
built without plumb lines.
Tin smoke-pipe leaning north,
tied by guy wires to the roof.
We nagged Dad to finish the walls,
but he never did.
The studs, he said,
were good for hanging pots and clothes.
The walls we insulated
with flattened cardboard boxes
and decorated them with pictures
cut from Hearst's American Weekly Sunday News.


"My Father As House Builder" by Robert Peters, from Poems: Selected and New 1967-1991. ( Asylum Arts, 1992)

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Morning Reading: "when spring climbed toward summer"

Elegy for a Walnut Tree
- W.S. Merwin

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Morning Reading: " We wanted something coarser than blood to course through us"

Two poems by Hillary Gravendyk who died on May 10. They appear in her first collection Harm (Omnidawn, 2011).  She lived with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and had a double lung transplant five years ago. At the time of her death, she was an assistant professor of English at Pomona College where she had taught since 2009. 


Ahead the sky is winnowed to its smallest feature. Starred with damage, the body. What was promised, what was

revealed. A long staircase of wounds. Behind: unseen error. Or accident. Harm winking on, a neon sign that says
closed. Pain glued to each window. The rooms shadowed with harm. You offered anxiety, a harness made from care. 
Curved handle, intention. Harm a kind of adhesive. Skin clusters around the opening, ridged and thick. There are 
lighter and darker marks. They disclose. Paper echo, gesture. Bleakness along the spine of narrative. Harm flat as a 
swept floor. As a drawn planet. A bright story is requested. What will be touched? Machines, that flashing support, a 
threaded needle. And the body, sutured to harm.


These were our secrets: samples from a charred heart, beak ligament, sharp fist of serpentine. We traded our 

phosphorous and filament for a ten-pin lock and were comforted. We knew that the right chemicals could make
anything glow, knew that our discoveries were too delicate for exposure, and how distant, how troubling outside our 
rare cabinets! A little more protection and another specimen: clinging ring of iris, breath-bottle, bone, or scab. It was 
dangerous but it was ours for safekeeping. We wanted something coarser than blood to course through us: beeswarm 
and fiberglass. Wanted to glitter and wound and the same time.

(I am afraid the line breaks do not work in every format.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Morning Reading: "Did I escape, I wonder?"

Page from Lynda Barry's book "What It Is."

- Sylvia Plath

Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Eyes rolled by white sticks,
Ears cupping the sea's incoherences,
You house your unnerving head -- God-ball,
Lens of mercies,

Your stooges
Plying their wild cells in my keel's shadow,
Pushing by like hearts,
Red stigmata at the very center,
Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of departure,

Dragging their Jesus hair.
Did I escape, I wonder?
My mind winds to you
Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,
Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous repair.

In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.

I didn't call you.
I didn't call you at all.
Nevertheless, nevertheless
You steamed to me over the sea,
Fat and red, a placenta

Paralyzing the kicking lovers.
Cobra light
Squeezing the breath from blood bells
Of the fuchsia. I could draw no breath,
Dead and moneyless,

Overexposed, like an X-ray.
Who do you think you are?
A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?
I shall take no bite of your body,
Bottle in which I live,

Ghastly Vatican.
I am sick to death of hot salt.
Green as eunuchs, your wishes
Hiss at my sins.
Off, off, eely tentacle!

There is nothing between us.

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