[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"There is no such thing as was—only is. If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow."
---William Faulkner


"Scar"
Sometimes it’s
       bigger than my
             body, the body

that gave it
       life, that is
           its life—as if I’m

a frame for
      it, as if it
             continues beyond

my end, although no
       one, not here,
             can see where

it goes, how
       far, & now
             it finds

its way into
       every possible
             place I

imagine, even
       the past, which believes
             in my scar like

a prophecy, & like a god’s
       work, I have no
             memory of it breathing

into me &
       abstracting me
             to myth from which to

remake the world
       into the rising
             & falling

action of fiction—my body
       as denouement. Sometimes I feel
             it without waiting

for its hum on
       the nerves, its shivering
             arc from eye

to jawbone. How often
       I want to
             give it a voice so

it can tell
       me what I want
             it to say—that it knows

me like tomorrow
       does. That a need lives
             in lack’s because.

---Emilia Phillips


"Lake Echo, Dear"
Is the woman in the pool of light
really reading or just staring
at what is written

Is the man walking in the soft rain
naked or is it the rain
that makes his shirt transparent

The boy in the iron cot
is he asleep or still
fingering the springs underneath

Did you honestly believe
three lives could be complete

The bottle of green liquid
on the sill is it real

The bottle on the peeling sill
is it filled with green

Or is the liquid an illusion
of fullness

How summer’s children turn
into fish and rain softens men

How the elements of summer
nights bid us to get down with each other
on the unplaned floor

And this feels painfully beautiful
whether or not
it will change the world one drop
---C.D. Wright
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Great poetry does not teach us anything--it changes us. Man is like a musical instrument of many strings, of which only a few are sounded by the narrow interests of his daily life; and the others, for want of use, are continually becoming tuneless and forgotten. Heroic poetry is a phantom finger swept over all the strings, arousing from man's whole nature a song of answering harmony. It is the poetry of action, for such alone can arouse the whole nature of man. It touches all the strings--those of wonder and pity, of fear and joy. It ignores morals, for its business is not in any way to make us rules for life, but to make character. It is not, as a great English writer has said, 'criticism of life', but rather a fire in the spirit, burning away what is mean and deepening what is shallow."
--W. B. Yeats, "Irish Poets and Irish Poetry"


"Boy Breaking Glass"
To Marc Crawford
from whom the commission


Whose broken window is a cry of art
(success, that winks aware
as elegance, as a treasonable faith)
is raw: is sonic: is old-eyed première.
Our beautiful flaw and terrible ornament.
Our barbarous and metal little man.

"I shall create! If not a note, a hole.
If not an overture, a desecration."

Full of pepper and light
and Salt and night and cargoes.

"Don't go down the plank
if you see there's no extension.
Each to his grief, each to
his loneliness and fidgety revenge.
Nobody knew where I was and now I am no longer there."

The only sanity is a cup of tea.
The music is in minors.

Each one other
is having different weather.

"It was you, it was you who threw away my name!
And this is everything I have for me."

Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,
the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,
runs. A sloppy amalgamation.
A mistake.
A cliff.
A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.
--Gwendolyn Brooks


"Adam's Curse"
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'
And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know--
Although they do not talk of it at school--
That we must labour to be beautiful.'
I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
--W. B. Yeats


"Kitchenette Building"
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in and gray. "Dream" makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like "rent," "feeding a wife," "satisfying a man."

But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warn it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.
--Gwendolyn Brooks


"A Display of Mackerel"
They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

barred with black bands,
which divide the scales'
radiant sections

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
--nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they're all exact expressions
of one soul,
each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven's template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler's
made uncountable examples,
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before.
Suppose we could iridesce,

like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe
of shimmer--would you want

to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed
to be lost? They'd prefer,

plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even now
they seem to be bolting

forward, heedless of stasis.
They don't care they're dead
and nearly frozen,

just as, presumably,
they didn't care that they were living:
all, all for all,

the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,
in which no verb is singular,

or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.
--Mark Doty


"I am even willing to argue passion is what separates us from other life-forms--that is, beyond the power to reason is our ability to escape from the desert of pure reason by its own primary instrument, language. And if it be poetry that makes the words flesh, then it is no less or more escapable than our bodies. But it is at least that free."
--C. D. Wright, Cooling Time: an American Poetry Vigil


"Poetry is tribal not material. As such it lights the fire and keeps watch over the flame. Believe me, this is where you get warm again. And naked. This is where you can remember the good times along with the worst; where you are not allowed to forget the worst, else you cannot be healed. This is where your memory must be exacting--where you and your progeny are held accountable but also laudable. Even and especially in our amnesiac land, poets are the griots, the ones who see that the word does not break faith with the line of the body."
--C. D. Wright
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Problems in relationships begin when you think you know everything about the other person. Every person is a universe unto themselves. How can we believe we can grasp the universe? No matter how well you think you know someone, there are deeper levels you have not tapped. It's important to keep investing time in getting to understand the people we love the most. There's always more to find."
--Yehuda Berg


"I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it. We must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and the soul."
--Henry Miller


"The Art of Blessing the Day"
This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your plashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let's not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends'
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree

of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can't bless it, get ready to make it new.
--Marge Piercy


"Bath 5"
If it's one drink, it will be two. Wisteria tangling
around your wrists. Here is where you buried your

father. Here is where you buried your brother.
Here is where they will bury you, when the

time comes. No wonder you drink yourself down
toward the earth. Home is where the shovels lie.

Earth and earth and earth. Stones crowd your sleep.
Granite and salt, sand giving birth to

the fortress where even your lovers sigh. Silent
underfoot. You dream yourself toward them.

You are foxfire, you are phosphorescent. Your
mouth like whiskey. Your eyes like whiskey.

You baptize yourself in sorrow, again and again.
You baptize yourself with bourbon and brandy.

You swim downward, fast salmon, heedless, handsome,
death is in you, it has captured your ear. You have your

father's jaw, your brother's chin. When you were born
they bathed your small body with their fears.

Each scar they'd earned became manifest on your skin.
Their love aches like a badly set bone. When the river takes

you, it will be no new baptism. Just that same, ancient sacrifice.
Just that rush, that rushing, and then you are gone.
--Jen Silverman


"Is love this misguided need to have you beside me most of the time? Is love this safety I feel in our silences? Is it this belonging, this completeness?"
--Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun


"My Mother Contemplating Her Gun"
One boyfriend said to keep the bullets

locked in a different room.
Another urged

clean it
or it could explode. Larry

thought I should keep it loaded
under my bed,


you never know.

I bought it
when I didn't feel safe. The barrel
is oily,

reflective, the steel

pure, pulled from a hole
in West Virginia. It

could have been cast into anything, nails
along the carpenter's lip, the ladder

to balance the train. Look at this, one
bullet,

how almost nothing it is--


saltpeter sulphur lead Hell

burns sulphur, a smell like this.


safety & hammer, barrel & grip

I don't know what I believe.

I remember the woods behind my father's house
horses beside the quarry

stolen cars lost in the deepest wells,
the water below
an ink waiting to fill me.

Outside a towel hangs from a cold line
a sheet of iron in the sky

roses painted on it, blue roses.

Tomorrow it will still be there.

--Nick Flynn


"Flood"
The earth smells like whatever drifts past--
a moment ago, black apples, now

sheep, legs turned to the sky, as if the world
had been turned over & it was me
hanging underwater. I've moved upstairs. Next it'll be

the attic, then out
onto the roof. In grade school I heard
clouds could weigh three tons & I wondered

why they didn't all just fall to the ground. Lately

I study rain, each drop shaped
like a comet, ten million of them, as if a galaxy

had exploded above us. The water now
waits to re-enter heaven, waits in my

kitchen, fattening phonebooks, bleeding
family photographs. Yesterday
the river broke its banks
& flooded the cemetery, washing away

topsoil, collapsing tombstones. It lifted

the caskets from their graves,
left someone's mother in a tree, delivered a stillborn

to the wrong family. Ten strangers
floated into the parking lot & lined their caskets up

as though anxious for the ruined market
to open. I filled sandbags, bought
another pump, read a manual on lifesaving--the trick:

hang lifelessly & breathe only air.
--Nick Flynn


trigger warning: drug abuse )


trigger warning: incarceration )


"Dear Prisoner,"
I too love. Faces. Hands. The circumference
Of the oaks. I confess. To nothing
You could use. In a court of law. I found.
That sickly sweet ambrosia of hope. Unmendable
Seine of sadness. Experience taken away.
From you. I would open. The mystery
Of your birth. To you. I know. We can
Change. Knowing. Full well. Knowing.

It is not enough.

Poetry Time Space Death
I thought. I could write. An exculpatory note.
I cannot. Yes, it is bitter. Every bit of it, bitter.
The course taken by blood. All thinking
Deceives us. Lead (kindly) light.
Notwithstanding this grave. Your garden.
This cell. Your dwelling. Who is unaccountably free.
--C. D. Wright, excerpt from One Big Self: An Investigation

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