Ten Favorite Poems

This poem anthology is about the American Condition.

 

You’d be Surprised

By: Alice Walker

You’d be surprised

to find

how cleansing

it feels

to depose

a

dictator:

there she is

anticipating your

every wish

seeking to orchestrate

your every

desire.

Get rid of her!

Life is too broad

a country

to tolerate

such foolishness

in you

own

small

yard.

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

rippling phrase

built of loneliness

 

and its consequences: longing

and hope.

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.

 

Clouds

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

slicked back;

like corn, or what, shining and useful.

Moonbeam

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

images?

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.

 

Performance

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.

 

Folksong

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.

Tree Planting

By: James Hoch

 

Outside the hospital

they’re planting

Bradfords along the sidewalk,

their roots bundled

in twine, burlap.

There’s no story here,

a voice says.

Through the traffic

shovels clang

and scrape against frames of cement,

and the workers,

covered in

carharts, lift the saplings

off the flatbed.

They are still young—

the workers, the tree;

everything shifts:

time, weather, the beetles who,

with their tiny scythes,

soon blacken

the blossoms.

Someone you love is dying.

it’s the way it is—like a thing

being set down inside,

you have to

take it.

 

First Cousin

By:Eric Schwerer

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

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About Faye

I blog for 5 sites.
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