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Thursday, August 19th, 2010
2:22 pm
RIP, Edwin, thank you for the words.
One Cigarette

by Edwin Morgan

No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker's tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I'll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss


The Scots Makar - or national poet - Edwin Morgan has died at the age of 90.

Mr Morgan, who was widely recognised as one of the foremost Scottish poets of the 20th century, passed away on Thursday after suffering pneumonia.
Friday, January 22nd, 2010
9:10 am
Archaic Torso of Apollo
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell
Sunday, November 29th, 2009
11:17 pm
Tomatoes by Stephen Dobyns
A woman travels to Brazil for plastic
surgery and a face-lift. She is sixty
and has the usual desire to stay pretty.
Once she is healed, she takes her new face
out on the streets of Rio. A young man
with a gun wants her money. Bang, she’s dead.
The body is shipped back to New York,
but in the morgue there is a mix-up. The son
is sent for. He is told that his mother
is one of these ten different women.
Each has been shot. Such is modern life.
He studies them all but can’t find her.
With her new face, she has become a stranger.
Maybe it’s this one, maybe it’s that one.
He looks at their breasts. Which ones nursed him?
He presses their hands to his cheek.
Which ones consoled him? He even tries
climbing onto their laps to see which
feels most familiar but the coroner stops him.
Well, says the coroner, which is your mother?
They all are, says the young man, let me
take them as a package. The coroner hesitates,
then agrees. Actually, it solved a lot of problems.
The young man has the ten women shipped home,
then cremates them all together. You’ve seen
how some people have a little urn on the mantel?
This man has a huge silver garbage can.
In the spring, he drags the garbage can
out to the garden and begins working the teeth,
the ash, the bits of bone into the soil.
Then he plants tomatoes. His mother loved tomatoes.
They grow straight from seed, so fast and big
that the young man is amazed. He takes the first
ten into the kitchen. In their roundness,
he sees his mother’s breasts. In their smoothness
he finds the consoling touch of her hands.
Mother, mother, he cries, and flings himself
on the tomatoes. Forget about the knife, the fork,
the pinch of salt. Try to imagine the filial
starvation, think of his ravenous kisses.
7:29 pm
“Because I Am a Girl, I Must Study” by Kamla Bhasin
A father asks his daughter:

Study? Why should you study?

I have sons aplenty who can study.

Girl, why should you study?

The daughter tells her father:

Since you ask, here’s why I must study.

Because I am a girl, I must study.

Long denied this right, I must study.

For my dreams to take flight, I must study.

Knowledge brings new light, so I must study.

For the battles I must fight, I must study.

Because I am a girl, I must study.

To avoid destitution, I must study.

To win independence, I must study.

To fight frustration, I must study.

To find inspiration, I must study.

Because I am a girl, I must study.

To fight men’s violence, I must study.

To end my silence, I must study.

To challenge patriarchy, I must study.

To demolish all hierarchy, I must study.

Because I’m a girl, I must study.

To mould a faith I can trust, I must study.

To make laws that are just, I must study.

To sweep centuries of dust, I must study.

To challenge what I must, I must study.

Because I’m a girl I must study.

To know right from wrong, I must study.

To find a voice that is strong, I must study.

To write feminist songs, I must study.

To make a world where girls belong, I must study.

Because I’m a girl, I must study.
Saturday, August 1st, 2009
9:01 pm
Passive Aggressive
Being passive aggressive
I was clearly confused
yet felt dangerously safe

Found missing
I led a genuine imitation
of life as a conservative liberal

I became a paid volunteer
during a working holiday
and was randomly organized

This was all a tragic comedy
as office work is my least favorite
choice of service

My temporary employ had come to the attention
of the media during rush hour
when original copies of tight slacks
worn by Marilyn Monroe
that I was carrying across the street 
were dropped and run over by
a sweet tart, drunk at the wheel!

I was alone together
with a guest host
before being taped live
to tell my tale of sweet sorrow
which really was the same difference
because I really didn’t give a hoot about it at all!

Words: K.Botka
Friday, May 1st, 2009
5:14 pm
Rare Things by Michael Van Gorder
Rare Things

In nature, straight lines and perfect circles.
Moments alone with my girlfriend.
Inexpensive and high-quality versions of new technologies.
A father-in-law that accepts a son-in-law as worthy;
even rarer is the son-in-law who gets along with a father-in-law.
However much they may be pleasant with one another
there is always the burning need not to share the same room.

A telephone within my immediate utility that works well.
A friend who is loyal enough to tell on what their worst qualities are.
Praise for the things one really feels are praiseworthy.
Artistic geniuses.
Papers free of typo,s.

Inexpensive and high-quality versions of anything.
Commercial breaks without car advertisements.
Satisfying naps.
Postcards written to someone.
Mornings when every traffic light is red. I am thankful these are rare.
A piece of art one never tires of.
Assignments one enjoys and is unafraid to have fun doing.
Someone satisfied with their employer and employment.

Smiles from strangers.
Good deeds without expectation of reward.

A politician who is selfless, who cares solely about the people and not about their personal station, who is unwilling to sacrifice their personal values in favor of their personal gain, who is sincere when saying anything at all, who is all of the above and gets elected.

Mornings when one feels grateful to have woken up.
Board games with one's whole family.
Substantial nuclear threats.

--Michael Van Gorder, from The Pillow Book
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
11:46 pm

Come to the orchard in Spring. 
There is light and wine, and sweethearts 
in the pomegranate flowers.

If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.

-- Rumi
Sunday, February 1st, 2009
5:19 pm
The Tiger

The Tiger

By William Blake


TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Sunday, December 21st, 2008
11:03 pm
Adrian Mitchel, RIP
Very sad to hear this news.  But not many can say their work reached space....


Adrian Mitchell

Look at your hands
your beautiful useful hands
you’re not an ape
you’re not a parrot

you’re not a slow loris
or a smart missile
you’re human
not british
not american
not israeli
not palestinian
you’re human
not catholic
not protestant
not muslim
not hindu
you’re human
we all start human
we end up human
human first
human last
we’re human
or we’re nothing
nothing but bombs
and poison gas
nothing but guns
and torturers
nothing but slaves
of Greed and War
if we’re not human
look at your body
with its amazing systems
of nerve-wires and blood canals
think about your mind
which can think about itself
and the whole universe
look at your face
which can freeze into horror
or melt into love
look at all that life
all that beauty
you’re human
they are human
we are human
let’s try to be human

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
6:29 pm

"A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts"
Wallace Stevens

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur—

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten on the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter. The grass is full

And full of yourself. The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.

Monday, September 15th, 2008
2:53 pm
I think I must be some kind of saint...

Remembering Alan
Ric Masten

I have been told
that the church will not saint a man
until he’s been dead at least fifty years
and that’s too bad
for who will be around then
to tell us how he always talked too much
and used to pick his nose

let me tell about a saint of mine
who not so long ago
was alive and well
and living in California

I had read every word he had written
and could recite his punch lines
like the rosary...
but he was only a writer of books then

he became a saint the night we met
and he was drunk
and fell on the floor vomiting

set me free

Monday, August 25th, 2008
9:40 pm
Patron saint of common sense?

Advice to a Novice
Vincent de Paul

You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry,
heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket.
But you must keep your gentleness and your smile.
It is not enough to give bread and soup. This the rich can do.
You are the servant of the poor,
always smiling and always in good humour.
They are your masters,
terribly sensitive and exacting as you will see,
but the more unjust and insulting to you, the more love you must give them.
It is only for your love,
only your love,
that the poor will forgive you the bread you give them.

Monday, August 11th, 2008
4:40 pm
First Gestures // Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye,
we're leaving," and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map--
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She's too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.

From Eve's Striptease, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

Sunday, August 10th, 2008
9:26 pm
Or maybe we could say nothing about it and have a fight later today?

"We Should Talk About This Problem"
Hafez (Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī)

There is a Beautiful Creature
Living in a hole you have dug.

So at night
I set fruit and grains
And little pots of wine and milk
Beside your soft earthen mounds,

And I often sing.

But still, my dear,
You do not come out.

I have fallen in love with Someone
Who hides inside you.

We should talk about this problem—

I will never leave you alone.

The poem is Persian from the 14th century, but I have no idea who translated this or when. Do you know?

Friday, August 1st, 2008
2:58 pm
What if you don't listen to radio?

Leonard Cohen

Take a long time with your anger,
sleepy head.
Don't waste it in riots.
Don't tangle it with ideas.
The Devil won't let me speak,
will only let me hint
that you are a slave,
your misery a deliberate policy
of those in whose thrall you suffer,
and who are sustained
by your misfortune.
The atrocities over there,
the interior paralysis over here—
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down.
You are being bred for pain.
The Devil ties my tongue.
I'm speaking to you,
'friend of my scribbled life'.
You have been conquered by those
who know how to conquer invisibly.
The curtains move so beautifully,
lace curtains of some
sweet old intrigue:
the Devil tempting me
to turn away from alarming you.
So I must say it quickly.
Whoever is in your life,
those who harm you,
those who help you;
those whom you know
and those whom you do not know—
let them off the hook,
help them off the hook.
Recognize the hook.
You are listening to Radio Resistance.

From The Book of Longing. Some amazing good stuff in it, if you like this one I'll post more and if you don't, well, I'll probably post more...

Sunday, July 20th, 2008
1:05 am
Moon Rondeau by Carl Sandburg
"Love is a door we shall open together."
So they told each other under the moon
One evening when the smell of leaf mould
And the beginnings of roses and potatoes
Came on a wind.

Late in the hours of that evening
They looked long at the moon and called it
A silver button, a copper coin, a bronze wafer.
A plaque of gold, a vanished diadem,
A brass hat dripping from deep waters.

"People like us,
us two,
We own the moon."

--Carl Sandburg
12:57 am
Hunger and Cold
Hunger long gone holds little heroic
to the hungering.

You don't eat and you get so you don't
care to eat nor ever remember eating--
and hearing of people who eat or don't
eat is all the same to you when you've
learned to keep your mind off eating
and eaters.

You become with enough hunger
the same as a tree with sap long gone
or a dry leaf ready to fall.

Cold is cold and too cold is too cold.

The colder you get the more numb you get
and when you get numb enough you begin
to feel snug and cozy with warmth.

When the final numb glow of comfort goes
through you, then comes your slow smooth
slide into being frozen stiff and stark.

The comes your easy entry at the tall
gates beyond which you are proof against
ice or fire
or tongues of malice
or itch of ambition
or any phase of the peculiar torment known
as unrequited love.

--Carl Sandburg
Sunday, July 6th, 2008
11:25 pm
Wear Sunscreen
 Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen…


6:00 pm
Interesting take on "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Not intended to offend if it's not your religious outlook, although I will point out that this piece doesn't necessarily address a deity. I just thought that it was rather unusual religious imagery that rises to the level of contemporary poetry.

Vivian Towse Pomeroy

Forgive us that
often we forgive ourselves so easily
and others so hardly;

Forgive us that we expect perfection
from those to whom we show none;

Forgive us for repelling people
by the way we set a good example;

Forgive us the folly
of trying to improve a friend;

Forbid that we should use
our little idea of goodness as a spear
to wound those who are are different;

Forbid that we should feel superior to others
when we are only more shielded;

And may we encourage the secret struggle of every person.

From New Prayers in Old Places, 1961. Out-of-print?

3:26 pm
IF, by Rudyard Kipling


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

I always see it as non-gendered, despite the last line...
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