Thursday, January 31, 2013

Poem 34 - Rethinking Regret

Winter is a deeply contemplative time for me. Maybe the “going into self” mirrors the “staying indoors” that happens in the heart of winter. I don’t know. What I do know is that I often ask myself if I have regrets for the way I’ve lived my life, for what I’ve done, for what I haven’t done, for what I’ve said and left unsaid, for what I’ve forgiven and for what I’ve yet to apologize for. I try to live without regret, without impatience for slow growth (that’s a hard one), allowing, at the very most, resignation for what’s done.

Rethinking Regret
Elaine Sexton

Let’s thank our mistakes, let’s bless them
for their humanity, their terribly weak chins.
We should offer them our gratitude and admiration
for giving us our clefts and scarring us with
embarrassment, the hot flash of confession.
Thank you, transgressions! for making us so right
in our imperfections. Less flawed, we might have
turned away, feeling too fit, our desires looking
for better directions. Without them, we might have
passed the place where one of us stood, watching
someone else walk away, and followed them,
while our perfect mistake walked straight towards us,
walked right into our cluttered, ordered lives
that could have been closed but were not,
that could have been asleep, but instead
stayed up, all night, forgetting the pill,
the good book, the necessary eight hours,
and lay there—in the middle of the bed—
keeping the heart awake—open and stunned,
stunning. How unhappy perfection must be
over there on the shelf without a crack, without
this critical break—this falling—this sudden, thrilling draft.

from Sleuth
New Issues

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Poem 33 - Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow

Here's another great winter snow poem. Enjoy!

Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow
Paul Zimmer

Some years back I worked a strip mine
Out near Tylersburg. One day it starts
To snow and by two we got three feet.
I says to the foreman, “I’m going home.”
He says, “Ain’t you stayin’ till five?”
I says, “I got to see to my cows,”
Not telling how Wanda was there at the house.
By the time I make it home at four
Another foot is down and it don’t quit
Until it lays another. Wanda and me
For three whole days seen no one else.
We tunneled the drifts and slid
Right over the barbed wire, laughing
At how our heartbeats melt the snow.
After a time the food was gone and I thought
I’d butcher a cow, but then it’s cleared
And the moon come up as sweet as an apple.
Next morning the ploughs got through. It made us sad.
It don’t snow like that no more. Too bad.

from Crossing to Sunlight

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Poem 32 - Not Only The Eskimos

Although we've only had one real snowfall this winter, we're in for a cold snap, so here's a nice winter poem.

Not Only The Eskimos
Lisel Mueller

We have only one noun
but as many different kinds:

the grainy snow of the Puritans
and snow of soft, fat flakes,

guerrilla snow, which comes in the night
and changes the world by morning,

rabbinical snow, a permanent skullcap
on the highest mountains,

snow that blows in like the Lone Ranger,
riding hard from out of the West,

surreal snow in the Dakotas,
when you can’t find your house, your street,
though you are not in a dream
or a science-fiction movie,

snow that tastes good to the sun
when it licks black tree limbs,
leaving us only one white stripe,
a replica of a skunk,

unbelievable snows:
the blizzard that strikes on the tenth of April,
the false snow before Indian summer,
the Big Snow on Mozart’s birthday,
when Chicago became the Elysian Fields
and strangers spoke to each other,

paper snow, cut and taped,
to the inside of grade-school windows,

in an old tale, the snow
that covers a nest of strawberries,
small hearts, ripe and sweet,
the special snow that goes with Christmas,
whether it falls or not,

the Russian snow we remember
along with the warmth and smell of furs,
though we have never traveled
to Russia or worn furs,

Villon’s snows of yesteryear,
lost with ladies gone out like matches,
the snow in Joyce’s “The Dead,”
the silent, secret snow
in a story by Conrad Aiken,
which is the snow of first love,

the snowfall between the child
and the spacewoman on TV,

snow as idea of whiteness,
as in snowdrop, snow goose, snowball bush,

the snow that puts stars in your hair,
and your hair, which has turned to snow,

the snow Elinor Wylie walked in
in velvet shoes,

the snow before her footprints
and the snow after,

the snow in the back of our heads,
whiter than white, which has to do
with childhood again each year.

from Alive Together

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Poem 31 - Apparition (& introducting Wisconsin's newest poet laureate)

It is with great pride that I share with you that the next poet laureate of Wisconsin is Max Garland, my college poetry professor and one of my absolute favorite contemporary poets. His work is quiet, honest, and often a bit humorous; he's sort of the Billy Collins of Wisconsin. Here is one of my favorite poems of his.
An interview and an article can be found here and here.

Max Garland

That’s the moon come down to drink,
that apparition on the water. Or
it’s the milk of human kindness
slinking like an eel.

Wind tears the cottonwood away
leaf by handsized leaf.
Small waves slap the pilings.

What is the proper number of kisses
for a man to leave the world?
The average depth of melancholy?
The approximate wetness of hope?

It’s very expensive tonight, the wind
in the lakeside trees. I don’t see how
I could afford to listen

if not for you in the world,
as the leaves sail in their numbers,
somewhere deep, quick and moonlike.