As some of my readers may or may not know my first official publication came as a poet and poetry is and always will be my first love. Poetry transends time and boundries, religious beliefs, political views, wealth and poverty, affairs of the heart and the hopes and dreams of the soul. From bottle-necked drunkards and wastrels bemoaning their lives to teenage angst to the expression of loss or the abysmal upbringing of loners, drifters and ramshackle survivors who have clawed their way from the gutter with nothing but the memory of their last high; needle still stuck in their arm while they pray to some vague and distant memory of a God they barely recall -- Poetry moves us - relates to us on some distant level.
The following are a few that have captured my attention. A few of my favorites and a few that I've written or wished that I wrote. The rest are left for you to sort out the details of -- within or without.
THE BLACKBIRDS ARE ROUGH TODAY - Charles Bukowski
lonely as a dry and used orchard
spread over the earth
for use and surrender.
shot down like an ex-pug selling
dailies on the corner.
taken by tears like
an aging chorus girl
who has gotten her last check.
a hanky is in order your lord your
the blackbirds are rough today
in an overnight
wine wine whine,
the blackbirds run around and
Spanish melodies and bones.
and everywhere is
the dream is as bad as
flapjacks and flat tires:
why do we go on
with our minds and
pockets full of
like a bad boy just out of
you who were a hero in some
you who teach children
you who drink with calmness
you who own large homes
and walk in gardens
you who have killed a man and own a
you tell me
why I am on fire like old dry
we might surely have some interesting
it will keep the mailman busy.
and the butterflies and ants and bridges and
the rocket-makers and dogs and garage mechanics
will still go on a
until we run out of stamps
don't be ashamed of
anything; I guess God meant it all
"The Blackbirds are Rough Today" Copyright 1988 by Charles Bukowski.
On Turning Ten - Billy Collins
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
Included in the book, Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.
Sentences - Arthur Rimbaud - Illuminations
When the world is reduced to a single dark wood for our four eyes' astonishment, - a beach for two faithful children, - a musical house for one pure sympathy, - I shall find you.
Should there be here below but a single old man, handsome and calm in the midst of "incredible luxury", I shall be at your feet.
Should I have realized all your memories, - should I be the one who can bind you hand and foot, - I shall strangle you.
When we are very strong, - who draws back? very gay, - who cares for ridicule? When we are very bad, - what would they do with us.
Deck yourself, dance, laugh, - I could never throw Love out of the window.
- My comrade, beggar girl, monster child! O it's all one to you these unhappy women, these wiles, and my discomfiture. Bind yourself to us with your impossible voice, your voice! sole soother of this vile despair.
The Children's Hour - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
Mind Mutations - A Collection
Copyright 2005 K. A. M’Lady
The Sun Rising Poetry Press
All Rights Reserved
Temporary sanity - K.A. M'Lady
You slept on in the un-made bed
dreaming of elk and forested places,
six o'clock sunrises, peat moss
And the simple way the leaves sigh
in an over-head ceiling of light.
I envy you the quiet,
the lessoning of weight
on bones weighed down by worry,
the ease of shuddered breathing
let loose like straight-line winds.
You spoke in groggy whispers,
of images mingling in the foggy haze
of your transported dreamland;
you spoke of Buddha, 57 Chevy's,
and how the sun settles on the river
in slanted shades of cocoa-green.
Your face was placid in its surrender,
peaceful with the glint of cherubs,
and for one moment,
I forgave you everything.
Cathleen Calbert - Death Goes Mad
Death Goes Mad
It began with little things:
sparrows whispered secrets
into his invisible ear,
how vile they found earthworms,
how their songs were screams.
Then the thing with the shoes.
Left was right,
He thought his breath
smelled like cigarettes,
like stale putty,
like a donkey’s ass:
shit, shit, shit
he went in this world.
Death checked himself in
to Our Lady of Mercy.
He had a full work-up.
The shrinks said, Borderline Personality.
He couldn’t distinguish himself
from someone else
(became fused, they said,
with every new lover).
Was Death psychotic?
Just another neurotic?
In love with his mother’s darkness?
(Death’s mom was long dead,
his dad unreachable in heaven.)
It’s always difficult
to say in these matters,
so they jolted his brain
with bolts of blue juice
and gave him milk toast
in whitewashed mornings.
They put him on Zoloft,
Paxil, Celexa, Effexor, Well-Butrin.
He might be left, they said, with a wet noodle.
But Death always could get a hard-on.
That was never his problem.
They told Death,
Today is the first day
of the rest of your life.
They told Death,
You design your own destiny.
They asked Death if he had any hobbies.
Hobbies? Death said.
They suggested he take up
knitting, sewing, crocheting.
Before his release, Death stenciled
Stars and a Crescent Moon
Stars and a Crescent Moon
Stars and a Crescent Moon
all over the hospital walls.
Shaken and bruised,
he lay off the sauce
and stuck to a regimen
of barley water
and vitamin supplements.
The birds no longer said anything
he thought worth hearing.
His bony feet fell
into the right right,
the right left.
Though still down in the mouth,
Death threw himself
into his work
at night when the lights are low and the traffic is a soft lull in the deepest hour of the night, and your heart feels that first even beat of peace....
Montana - David Krump
Copyright © 2005
Montana, I wanted to say, Montana,
you are futile and beautiful
or was it you are futile in your beauty?
But I open my mouth on the dark train
and my words shake out all over like little salts.
Someone should say something like
look there through the fast train’s window
passing west. Look. That’s me looking out
at the bones of a town. On Skeleton Avenue
Go Tigers! someone has enthusiastically painted in red
on the front of their house. Yes, go, Tigers, and
take the little pretty ones and make them into stars.
Teach them to hunt the higher plains,
the steppes of breaking fists in wind.
Teach us all to be civilized warriors again.
Montana, in all my dreams, is wind, is void,
is a videogame I cannot defeat. Montana,
my little brothers know the button patterns
to your secret codes, ways you send
the scending sun away, but I know your
Montana heart is America
and it has two small veins like lanes
and it has eyes of widow and it has
sky falling dark and it has here a wolf
there a wolf and it has world’s largest moon
I see before us it has parts and particles
bleeding back to the place of fire.
Unghost town, empty attic of America,
space of hard longing.
Sharp Cutbank, bright Whitefish,
what will become of us?
Montana— 1 2 3
4 5 6 —Montana, I can still see you.
Last night my soul smelled
only of fire, but
this morning I think
a bit Montana.
Beginning to think:
is more important
than the pilgrim
or that the holy place
is holy only because Montana.
So for the weeping pilgrim
is no less natural
than at the knees.
And so for me and you,
Montana, we keep growing
all these abiding memories
we cannot hide.
The Blue Terrance - Terrance Hayes
I come from a long line hollowed out on a dry night,
the first son in a line of someone else's children,
afraid of water, closets, other people's weapons,
hunger and stupidity, afraid of the elderly and the new dead,
bodies tanned by lightening, afraid of dogs without ethos,
each white fang on the long walk home. I believe all the stories
of who I was: a hardback book, a tent behind the house
of a grandmother who was not my grandmother, the smell of beer,
which is a smell like sweat. They say I climbed to the roof
with a box of light bulbs beneath my arm. Before the bricks,
there were trees, before the trees, there were lovers
barely rooted to the field, but let's not talk about them,
it makes me blue. I come from boys throwing rocks
bigger than their fists at the head of the burned girl,
her white legs webbed as lace on a doily. In someone's garage
there was a flashlight on two dogs pinched in heat.
And later, a few of the puppies born dead and too small
to be missed. I come from howls sent up all night and all day,
summers below the hoop and board nailed to a pine tree.
I come from light bulbs glowing with no light and no expressions,
thrown as far as the will allows like a night chore, like a god
changing his mind; from the light broken on the black road
leading to my mother. Tell me what you remember of her
now that her walk is old, now that the bone in her hip strains
to heal its fracture? I come from the hot season
gathering its things and leaving. I come from the dirt road
leading to the paved one. I will not return to the earth
as if I had never been born. I will not wait to become a bird
dark enough to bury itself in midair. I wake up sometimes
in the middle of the country with fur on my neck.
Where did they bury my dog after she hung herself,
and into the roots of what tree are those bones entangled?
I come blessed like a river of black rock, like a long secret,
and the kind of kindness like a door that is closed
but not locked. Yesterday I was nothing but a road
heading four ways. When I threatened to runaway
my mother said she would take me where ever I wanted to go.
Tiny Acoustic Guitars
Because I never would fell the giant
I offered him candy.
I offered him the latest returns
from our recent municipal elections.
And as the candidates of giants
he was smugly satisfied.
I offered him fur shoes,
a cloud in which to be absorbed
and float above the fences
with his smirking giant friends.
I only asked that he leave us alone
with our dog hair forests
and their sexy puckered skins,
with our floppy little matchboxes
in which at night we sleep,
on which by day we protest
GROVE © by Patricia Clark
Growing alongside each other at the low place
that often floods, the vulnerable spot
where water from the lagoon slips out
to meet the river, trees grip the trapezoid
of ground with riverwater moving
past, sinuously, to fill the pond. Between
the curve of bank and the road, they stand
grouped and also solitary, a gray,
spindly lot with deeply-furrowed bark,
two dozen or so of the fast-growing cottonwoods.
If the stories are true, of people
being tied to trees along rivers in another
country, people who were sick in their minds,
would the sounds here be enough
to soothe anyone ill? Or would they need
more rapidly falling water, gallons that pour
from pools thick with the shadows
of pike, or water chunked and grinding
with ice? When river-sounds wash over me
like the sounds of leaves, that blue-
green deciduous murmur, I could lie down here
on a blanket dappled by clouds, reverting
to childhood, or dream of last fall
ankle deep in leaves, when I envisioned
a dress knitted together from the delta shapes
of cottonwood leaves. Wearing it, I'd be
the trunk of a swaying thing, half-tree,
half-woman, leaf color changing day-to-day,
mood-to-mood, river stories of the past
soaking into me as the moisture wicks up
into the cottonwoods, how the hardwoods were felled
here, branded, floated down to mills or
set afire for potash, and riverboats churned
the waters with people singing on a summer day,
one couple clambering ashore to sit,
then sleep, leaning against a tree-trunk.
Old photographs show the so-called river-rat men
in vests, in hats, balancing on rafts of logs,
or next to literal mountains of trees in piles,
horses, sleds, and men dwarfed and looking straight
ahead, proud, somehow, that they could
destroy so much. By 1900, all the trees
were gone. The slate water takes on a grave-
stone gray, rushing toward the dam.
Nearby, if you listen with care, near dusk—
you'll hear alone the kingfisher's rattling cry,
before it plunges twenty feet straight
down, the water parting clean as bone.
The Eater of Grass
by Jada Ach
I know the essence of soil:
how it waxes the gums and
caulks between teeth, how
it tastes like the green lingering
of the almost-dead –
because on that day when they
held out my arms like wings,
like Jesus, and showed me what
lust could do when aided by
force, I felt like Malinche
receiving the sex of Cortés,
tenderly and almost willingly –
and I marveled at how the layers,
rich hues of brown antiquity,
could erode and dissolve inside of me
Matt Hart - APOLOGY CRISIS
When I flipped on the power
the impression of a miraculous intervention
was an unfortunate and immediate side-effect,
causing my defenses to crash and your resistance
to plummet. I’m sorry. What you experienced was merely
the silo door opening, the grain spilling out, the hatchling
taking its first ever breath. Tonight would’ve been
our celebration of the fluttering mixed signals.
I’d have worn my reticular tie, and you
your numerous powders. All the misery between
us would’ve dissolved in the strobe lights,
my breath on your furnace, your fork
in my socket. If only we had understood
the new system sooner. How under the new system
there’s a new system. And how under the newer system,
a flock of geese comes between us, then a mobile home,
a tomahawk… both of us ashamed in the morning.
Postcard of Two Birds, Scattered Feathers By Idra Novey
Here’s a pre-story: a copse of sycamores,
two larks. Something on the verge
of altering. One bird
hyphens between branches, all instinct
and wing, while the other
smaller one (we’ll call her she) remains
motionless, passing for tree trunk,
the ochre of bark. But the larger (our he)
has already seen her, and glides eagerly
to her bough. Their shadows merge,
a blur of wings, then separate
as swiftly, six wispy feathers
spinning to the ground--the upholstery
of mercy. Above: two birds again, in flight.
she said I’d know a mother’s suffering;
heartbreak spoken as a death bed prophesy,
I didn’t understand until this moment,
walking through memories tied to my empty
womb, an appendage I didn’t think I’d miss
until this moment, a heartbeat I never knew
as my own, but I recall those small moments
when I held you, fragile and impressionable,
wide-eye and full of hope, but life has a way of
interrupting, scavenging possibilities wrapped in
someone else’s clothes; truths spill from garbage lips
and sewer throats and nothing but the rot of what once
was an ordinary life becomes an even bigger travesty for
nothing remains but emptiness in the shattered,
lonely places we each once described as home