This poem anthology is about the American Condition.
You’d be Surprised
By: Alice Walker
You’d be surprised
there she is
seeking to orchestrate
Get rid of her!
Life is too broad
The Snow Cricket
By: Mary Oliver
Just beyond the leaves and the white face
of the lilies,
I saw the wings
of the green snow cricket
as it went flying
from vine to vine,
searching, then finding a shadowed place in which
to sit and sing—
and by singing I mean, in this instance,
not just the work of the little mouth-cave,
but of every enfoldment of the body—
a singing that has no words
or a single bar of music
or anything more, in fact, than one repeated
built of loneliness
and its consequences: longing
Pale and humped,
the snow cricket sat all evening
in a leafy hut, in the honeysuckle.
It was trembling
with the force of its crying out,
and in truth I couldn’t wait to see if another would come to it
for fear that it wouldn’t,
and I wouldn’t be able to bear it.
I wished it good luck, with all my heart,
and went back over the lawn, to where the lilies were standing
on their calm, cob feet,
each in the ease
of a single, waxy body
breathing contentedly in the chill night air;
and I swear I pitied them, as I looked down
into the theater of their perfect faces—that frozen, bottomless glare.
by: Mary Oliver
All afternoon, Sir,
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still;
then they broke open. This is, I suppose,
just one of the common miracles,
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and it serves
the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
like corn, or what, shining and useful.
By: Louise Gluck
The mist rose with a little sound. Like a thud.
Which was the heart beating. And the sun rose, briefly diluted.
And after what seemed years, it sank again
and twilight washed over the shore and deepened there.
And from out of nowhere lovers came,
people who still had bodies and hearts. Who still had
arms, legs, mouth, although by day they might be
housewives and businessmen.
The same night also produced people like ourselves.
You are like me, whether or not you admit it.
Unsatisfied, meticulous. And your hunger is not for experience
but for understanding, as though it could be had in the abstract.
Then it’s daylight again and the world goes back to normal.
The lovers smooth their hair; the moon resumes its hollow existence.
And the beach belongs again to mysterious birds
soon to appear on postage stamps.
But what of our memories, the memories of those who depend on
Do they count for nothing?
The mist rose, taking back proof of love.
Without which we have only the mirror, you and I.
See No Evil
By: Billy Collins
No one expected all three of them
to sit there on their tree stumps forever,
their senses covered with their sinuous paws
as to shut out the vile, nefarious world.
As it happened,
it was the one on the left
who was the first to desert his post,
uncapping his ears,
then loping off into the orbit of rumors and lies,
but also into the realm of symphonies,
the sound of water tumbling over rocks
and wind stirring the leafy domes of trees.
Then the monkey on the right lowered his hands
from his wide mouth and slipped away
in search of someone to talk to,
some news he could spread,
maybe something to curse or shout about.
and that left the monkey in the middle
alone with his silent vigil,
shielding his eyes from depravity’s spectacle,
blind to the man whipping his horse,
the woman shaking her baby in the air,
but also unable to see
the russet sun on a rough shelf of rock
and apples in the grass at the base of a tree.
Sometimes, he wonders about the other two,
listens for the faint sounds of their breathing
up there on the mantel
alongside the clock and the candlesticks.
And some nights in the quiet house
he wishes he could break the silence with a question,
but he knows the one on his right
would not be able to hear,
and the one to his left,
according to their sacred oath—
the one they all took with one paw raised—
is forbidden forever to speak, even in reply.
By: Tyler Caroline Mills
The story involves a whole village kept busy
making earthenware jars while the hurricane
a hundred miles offshore kicks up the oily green ocean
and the only two people who won’t escape
are sweating in an abandoned stable the rain slashes.
They are naked and touch the dirt floor with their fingers,
thinking someone is about to pull open the door.
Characters can’t know the real crisis: Dorothy doesn’t remember
Lion being the farmhand who pulled her from the pigpen
before she glittered the dead witch’s shoes—
Glint, glint, glint—back to where she began.
But in real life, the cherry picker parked across from the post office
extends his silver basket. The tiny human figure
looks like he stands in a toothbrush cap up there
and he’s reaching for the black seem dangling the stop lights
when a car hits the truck and the crane swerves the man,
and he falls. He dies. What then? We can only control
some stories: babysitting, I would turn three pages at once
during the fifth bedtime book until the girl sitting on my lap
asked about the train and why this time the conductor didn’t wait.
I would be caught, like now, when I am nowhere but pretending to be
standing in the Pittsburgh Aviary watching flamingos
step through a pond, the white plastic pipes churning, bubbling the surface.
One cartoon pink leg lifts a wet claw, dips it back,
stepping into the ventilated lawn ornaments our friend staked in his lawn.
And switched around at dusk—sometimes three turning their backs to one,
sometimes all seven forms seeming to proceed to the curb in the fog—
as though the neighbors would have to consider
the ornaments becoming birds and moving themselves.
This is suggested plot, though, like when a child
asks you to keep the bedroom door open
after you tuck her in so (you think) the vertical strip of light
can illuminate the bookcase next to her pillow
when she really wants the lion tucking his paws under his mane
and guarding the foot of her bed to know
he can exit by pushing his nose on the door.
Now I am listening to a white-crested laughing thrush
chortling up by the aviary’s skylights
and a blue parrot muttering at the blank clouds:
“I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,”
which could be a climax if there was a story
followed by a rainy walk to the car,
the powder-gray bats I’ve never seen here before
dipping from oak to oak as randomly as meteors.
By: Christopher DeWeese
Tusk, don’t leave me withered.
Spring, butter my skin.
All night, I’m rented out:
the somnambulist blues again.
All of this is dangerous.
The blankets. The compass.
What it means to be a hero
shifts inside me like an extinct wind.
Like some false god
put a fume within me and lit.
Shannon, I am so sorry every night
for whatever I have done
and for the certainty
with which I can’t remember it.
The Somniloquy of the Sleeping Asp
I am the little black
Curled inside the lamb.
If the center of the sea forgets me,
The center of the sea forgets you.
By: James Hoch
Outside the hospital
Bradfords along the sidewalk,
their roots bundled
in twine, burlap.
There’s no story here,
a voice says.
Through the traffic
and scrape against frames of cement,
and the workers,
carharts, lift the saplings
off the flatbed.
They are still young—
the workers, the tree;
time, weather, the beetles who,
with their tiny scythes,
Someone you love is dying.
it’s the way it is—like a thing
being set down inside,
you have to
What is the paint doing on the shutters:
these mornings of heavy dew have made it pucker—
and see how it curls from the weather-widened louvers
peeling into cups that hold the drops of condensation?
The morning is asking questions and the first coat is getting curious.
Lichen are stitching into the cinder and first course of siding.
Even the mortar between the blocks is falling
making little litters in a rut
the eaves’ drop have made
because there are no gutters and the vine
is thickening to the back porch balustrade.
My God is a carpenter.
What did this?
In front of every question
is a hint.
The snapdragons look devilish
amid mint that all summer flourished
and now flowers as a weed flowers,
cramped and too small to be suffering bloom.
I was outside the house, I was very young and coveted
the strips of bark as if skin itself
was saying a terrible, child-like good-bye.
it was the first summer I’d heard the word sycamore.
Love was a detail dissolving into secondary tissue,
a mutiny of body and of fluid. I as
putting the bark to the porch
my grandma had painted,
remembering it in pieces.
The day they framed it
with cut nails grandpa crossed the creek
to offer his sorority.