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"Like everything else this strange morning, the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the grey-green walls. If only she could put them together, she felt, write them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of things. The extraordinary unreality was frightening; but it was also exciting. Going to the lighthouse. Perished. Alone. The grey-green light on the wall opposite. The empty places. Such were some of the parts, but how bring them together?"
--Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse


"Poets Hitchhiking on the Highway"
Of course I tried to tell him
but he cranked his head
without an excuse.
I told him the sky chases
the sun
And he smiled and said:
"What's the use."
I was feeling like a demon
again
So I said: "But the ocean chases
the fish."
This time he laughed
and said: "Suppose the
strawberry were
pushed into a mountain."
After that I knew the
war was on--
So we fought:
He said: "The apple-cart like a
broomstick-angel
snaps & splinters
old dutch shoes."
I said: "Lightning will strike the old oak
and free the fumes!"
He said: "Mad street with no name."
I said: "Bald killer! Bald killer! Bald killer!"
He said, getting real mad, "Young Poets
"Firestoves! Gas! Couch!"
I said, only smiling,
"I know God would turn back his head
If I sat quietly and thought."
We ended by melting away,
hating the air!
--Gregory Corso


"The Nutritionist"
The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables.
Said if I could get down thirteen turnips a day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away
to where the darkness lives.

The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight.
Said for twenty dollars she'd tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty. She said, "Stop worrying, darling.
You will find a good man soon."

The first psycho therapist told me to spend
three hours each day sitting in a dark closet
with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn't stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.

The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth.
Said to focus on the out breath. Said everyone finds happiness
when they care more about what they give
than what they get.

The pharmacist said, "Lexapro, Lamicatl, Lithium, Xanax."

The doctor said an anti-psychotic might help me
forget what the trauma said.

The trauma said, "Don't write this poem.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones."

But my bones said, "Tyler Clementi dove
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone."

My bones said, "Write the poem."

The lamplight. Considering the river bed.
To the chandelier of your fate hanging by a thread.
To everyday you could not get out of bed.
To the bulls eye of your wrist
To anyone who has ever wanted to die.

I have been told, sometimes, the most healing thing to do--
Is remind ourselves over and over and over:
"Other people feel this too."

The tomorrow that is coming, gone
And it has not gotten better
When you are half finished writing that letter
to your mother that says "I swear to God I tried
But when I thought I hit bottom, it started hitting back"
There is no bruise like the bruise of loneliness kicks into the spine

So let me tell you I know there are days
it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets
when you break down like the doors of the looted buildings

You are not alone
and wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief into the chamber of your shame

You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy
I have never met a heavy heart
that wasn't a phone booth with a red cape inside
Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes for some people to just walk outside
Some days I know my smile looks like the gutter of a falling house

But my hands are always holding tight to the ripchord of believing
A life can be rich like the soil
Can make food of decay
Can turn wound into highway
Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says
"It is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society."

I have never trusted anyone
with the pulled back bow of my spine
the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
Screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound

Four nights before Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge
I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
Calculating exactly what I had to swallow
to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down

What I know about living is the pain is never just ours
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo
So I keep a listening to the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn't see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream

I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.

So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin,
don't try to put me back in,
just say "Here we are together at the window aching for it to all get better
but knowing as bad as it hurts our hearts, made of only just skin,
knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming--
let me say right now for the record, I'm still gonna be here
asking this world to dance, even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet
you--you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.
Raising your bright against the bitter dark
Your bright longing
Your brilliant fists of loss"

Friends, if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my God that's plenty
my God that's enough
my God that is so so much for the light to give

each of us at each other's backs whispering over and over and over

"Live"
"Live"
"Live"

--Andrea Gibson


"All Souls' Night, 1917"
You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath--
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.
--Hortense King Flexner


"House on a Cliff"
Indoors the tang of a tiny oil lamp. Outdoors
The winking signal on the waste of sea.
Indoors the sound of the wind. Outdoors the wind.
Indoors the locked heart and the lost key.

Outdoors the chill, the void, the siren. Indoors
The strong man pained to find his red blood cools,
While the blind clock grows louder, faster. Outdoors
The silent moon, the garrulous tides she rules.

Indoors ancestral curse-cum-blessing. Outdoors
The empty bowl of heaven, the empty deep.
Indoors a purposeful man who talks at cross
Purposes, to himself, in a broken sleep.
--Louis Macneice


"The Changeling"
Toll no bell for me, dear Father dear Mother,
Waste no sighs;
There are my sisters, there is my little brother
Who plays in the place called Paradise,
Your children all, your children for ever;
But I, so wild,
Your disgrace, with the queer brown face, was never,
Never, I know, but half your child!

In the garden at play, all day, last summer,
Far and away I heard
The sweet "tweet-tweet" of a strange new-comer,
The dearest, clearest call of a bird.
It lived down there in the deep green hollow,
My own old home, and the fairies say
The word of a bird is a thing to follow,
So I was away a night and a day.

One evening, too, by the nursery fire,
We snuggled close and sat round so still,
When suddenly as the wind blew higher,
Something scratched on the window-sill,
A pinched brown face peered in--I shivered;
No one listened or seemed to see;
The arms of it waved and the wings of it quivered,
Whoo--I knew it had come for me!
Some are as bad as bad can be!
All night long they danced in the rain,
Round and round in a dripping chain,
Threw their caps at the window-pane,
Tried to make me scream and shout
And fling the bedclothes all about:
I meant to stay in bed that night,
And if only you had left a light
They would never have got me out!

Sometimes I wouldn't speak, you see,
Or answer when you spoke to me,
Because in the long, still dusks of Spring
You can hear the whole world whispering;
The shy green grasses making love,
The feathers grow on the dear grey dove,
The tiny heart of the redstart beat,
The patter of the squirrel's feet,
The pebbles pushing in the silver streams,
The rushes talking in their dreams,
The swish-swish of the bat's black wings,
The wild-wood bluebell's sweet ting-tings,
Humming and hammering at your ear,
Everything there is to hear
In the heart of hidden things.
But not in the midst of the nursery riot,
That's why I wanted to be quiet,
Couldn't do my sums, or sing,
Or settle down to anything.
And when, for that, I was sent upstairs
I did kneel down to say my prayers;
But the King who sits on your high church steeple
Has nothing to do with us fairy people!

'Times I pleased you, dear Father, dear Mother,
Learned all my lessons and liked to play,
And dearly I loved the little pale brother
Whom some other bird must have called away.
Why did they bring me here to make me
Not quite bad and not quite good,
Why, unless They're wicked, do They want, in spite,
to take me
Back to Their wet, wild wood?
Now, every night I shall see the windows shining,
The gold lamp's glow, and the fire's red gleam,
While the best of us are twining twigs and the rest of us
are whining
In the hollow by the stream.
Black and chill are Their nights on the wold;
And They live so long and They feel no pain:
I shall grow up, but never grow old,
I shall always, always be very cold,
I shall never come back again!
--Charlotte Mew


"Cycles Ago"
In memory of your dream one July night

The low crying curlew and peewit, the honey pale orb of the moon,
The dew covered grass in the valley, our mother the sea with her croon
The leaping green leaves in the woodland, the flame of the stars in the skies,
Are tossed in Love's robe for he passes, and mad with Love's feet for he flies.

You came and moved near me a little with pensive remembering grace
The sad rose colours of autumn with weariness mixed in your face,
My world was fallen and over, for your dark soft eyes on it shone;
A thousand years it had waited and now it is gone, it is gone.

'We were as if brother and sister of old in the desert land',
How softly you spake it, how softly 'I give but a friendly hand
They sold us in slavery together before this life had begun
But Love bides nobody’s bidding being older than moon or sun.'

Ah cycles ago did I meet you and mingle my gaze with your gaze,
They mingled a moment and parted and weariness fell on our days,
And we went alone on our journeys and envied the grass covered dead
For Love had gone by us unheeding, a crown of stars on his head.
--W. B. Yeats


"The Cat in the Kitchen"
For Donald Hall

Have you heard about the boy who walked by
The black water? I won't say much more.
Let's wait a few years. It wanted to be entered.
Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
Reaches out and pulls him in.
There was no
Intention, exactly. The pond was lonely, or needed
Calcium, bones would do. What happened then?
It was a little like the night wind, which is soft,
And moves slowly, sighing like an old woman
In her kitchen late at night, moving pans
About, lighting a fire, making some food for the cat.
--Robert Bly


"Casabianca"
Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite "The boy stood on
the burning deck." Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.
--Elizabeth Bishop


"Tulips"
The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they'll be missed.

The way they're somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see--
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who's in the mirror,

The one who can't tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.
--A. E. Stallings


"Wife's Disaster Manual"
When the forsaken city starts to burn,
after the men and children have fled,
stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn

back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
in the forsaken city starting to burn.

Don't flinch. Don't join in.
Resist the righteous scurry and instead
stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn

your thoughts away from escape: the iron
gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,

surrender to your calling, show concern
for those who remain. Come to a dead
standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn

into something essential. Learn
the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
when the forsaken city starts to burn.
Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.
--Deborah Paredez


"Flight 1067 to L.A."
Snowy sierra sawteeth
lift to leftward
as I drink white wine staidly
above the Great Valley in the belly
of a silvery pseudocetacean
sailing the airsea to a palmy city.
I am my ancestors' sci-fi.
--Ursula K. Le Guin


"October"
Although a tide turns in the trees
the moon doesn't turn the leaves
though chimneys smoke and blue concedes
to bluer home-time dark.

Though restless leaves submerge the park
in yellow shallows, ankle-deep,
and through each tree the moon shows, halved
or quartered or complete,

the moon's no fruit and has no seed,
and turns no tide of leaves on paths
that still persist but do not lead
where they did before dark.

Although the moonstruck pond stares hard
the moon looks elsewhere. Manholes breathe.
Each mind's a different, distant world
this same moon will no leave.
--Jacob Polley


"History"
for Charles R. Saunders

Against endless, black, forever, dark nothing,
Blanches the blear North Star

Hot-eyed, I look up, aspiring to warm those stars.
But, cold and uncaring, they just grow colder.

To destroy everything,
A nihilist must be optimistic.

If I had any luck at all,
I'd have some rum.

Depression is boring.
Let tears spring as sprightly as piano notes.

Let us breathe pain with every breath--
Until we fall, breathless.

The plot of life, Kemosabe,
Trails off to a grave.
--George Elliot Clarke


Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail--
Assent--and you are sane--
Demur--you're straightaway dangerous--
And handled with a Chain--
--Emily Dickinson


I started Early--Took my Dog--
And visited the Sea--
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me--

And Frigates--in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands--
Presuming Me to be a Mouse--
Aground--upon the Sands--

But no Man moved Me--till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe--
And past my Apron--and my Belt
And past my Bodice--too--

And made as He would eat me up--
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve--
And then--I started--too--

And He--He followed--close behind--
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle--Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl--

Until We met the Solid Town--
No One He seemed to know--
And bowing--with a Mighty look--
At me--The Sea withdrew--
--Emily Dickinson


Remorse--is Memory--awake--
Her Parties all astir--
A Presence of Departed Acts--
At window--and at Door--

It's Past--set down before the Soul
And lighted with a match--
Perusal--to facilitate--
And help Belief to stretch--

Remorse is cureless--the Disease
Not even God--can heal--
For 'tis His institution--and
The Adequate of Hell--
--Emily Dickinson


My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--
In Corners--till a Day
The Owner passed--identified--
And carried Me away--

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods--
And now We hunt the Doe--
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply--

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow--
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had lets its pleasure through--

And when at Night--Our good day done--
I guard My Master's Head--
'Tis better than the Eider Duck's
Deep Pillow--to have shared--

To foe of His--I'm deadly foe--
None stir the second time--
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye--
Or an emphatic Thumb--

Though I than He--may longer live
He longer must--than I--
For I have but the power to kill,
Without--the power to die--
--Emily Dickinson


Publication--is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man--
Poverty--be justifying
For so foul a thing

Possibly--but We--would rather
From Our Garret go
White--unto the White Creator--
Than invest--Our Snow--

Thought belong to Him who gave it--
Then--to Him Who bear
Its Corporeal illustration--sell
The Royal Air--

In the Parcel--Be the Merchant
Of the Heavenly Gate--
But reduce no Human Spirit
To Disgrace of Price--
--Emily Dickinson


The Bible is an antique Volume--
Written by faded Men
At the suggestion of Holy Spectres--
Subjects--Bethlehem--
Eden--the ancient Homestead--
Satan--the Brigadier--
Judas--the Great Defaulter--
David--the Troubadour--
Sin--a distinguished Precipice
Others must resist--
Boys that "believe" are very lonesome--
Other Boys are "lost"--
Had but the Tale a warbling Teller--
All the Boys would come--
Orpheu's Sermon captivated--
It did not condemn--
--Emily Dickinson


Of Death I try to think like this,
The Well in which they lay us
Is but the Likeness of the Brook
That menaced not to slay us,
But to invite by that Dismay
Which is the Zest of sweetness
To the same Flower Hesperian,
Decoying but to greet us--

I do remember when a Child
With bolder Playmates straying
To where a Brook that seemed a Sea
Withheld us by its roaring
From just a Purple Flower beyond
Until constrained to clutch it
If Doom itself were the result,
The boldest leaped, and clutched it--
--Emily Dickinson


He ate and drank the precious Words--
His Spirit grew robust--
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust--
He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book--What Liberty
A loosened Spirit brings--
--Emily Dickinson


God is indeed a jealous God--
He cannot bear to see
That we had rather not with Him
But with each other play.
--Emily Dickinson

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