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Bittern II Aug. 10th, 2015 @ 12:08 am
Remember what I said about finding poems on the same theme back-to-back? Credit for this goes to othergoose, whose poems I was browsing today.

Audubon Examines a Bittern

Andrew Hudgins

A lady brought me a Least Bittern
wrapped in her skirt. She woke this morning
to find it perched on her bedpost.
It stuck its beak in the air
and tried to pretend it was a reed,
a trick that works well on the marsh
but not so well in a lady's bedroom.
"I'd only left my window open
a crack," she said, "but there it was."
It didn't struggle much, scream,
or foul the cloth. (They usually do.)
It posed, beak up, and didn't budge
for ninety minutes while I sketched it.
Then, an experiment of sorts:
I set up books two inches apart
and jabbed the bird with a pencil.
Between my Gray's Anatomy
and a large red book about Brazil
it strolled like a lord on his way to town.
I moved them closer—an inch apart.
The bird was wonderful! It marched right through!
When I killed it, I found its breast
two and a quarter inches wide.
Bedamned if I know what to make of that.

Based on a true story.

Cryptic Coloration Aug. 4th, 2015 @ 11:53 pm
Continuing my collection of poems about herons. This one was irresistible for being the first I've found about a bittern, not a heron, night-heron, or egret. Abbott's Lagoon is part of Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.

The Bittern At Abbott's Lagoon

John O'Reilly

the walk to the sea belongs to the sea
we are drawn on as waves are
the late light is sidelong
a glance at a party
passed from one guest to the next

few have binoculars out for the bittern
on the other side of the lagoon
the walk pauses where those
who’ve been shown it show it to others
like a face in a tortilla

for some time we forget about the ocean
all of us eyeing this cryptic bird
which deems itself invisible
as we deem ourselves while exposed

soon darkness will sidle down
brought to the hem of the Pacific
that the bittern might recede
into invisibility amid the reeds
there upon its hunting ground
a shy and terrible god like ours

To see my other heron poems, check the tags.

Voices Aug. 2nd, 2015 @ 01:00 am
I never finished a poem a day for April, mostly because I just didn't want to. MM and I broke up in February and I kept selecting poems that centered around loss, and then I didn't want to post them, et cetera et cetera and so forth, please excuse me while I throw up. I'll do better next year.

MM said he never understood me. Even after two and a half years, he found me mysterious; he could never communicate just what it was that he didn't get about me. I tried so many ways to show him. I even gave him a link to this journal, and he lost it.


Eliza Griswold

What are we now but voices
who promise each other a life
neither one can deliver
not for lack of wanting
but wanting won’t make it so.
We cling to a vine at the cliff’s edge.
There are tigers above
and below. Let us love
one another and let go.

July Jul. 24th, 2015 @ 01:56 pm
Van Gogh in Auvers

Robert C. Jones

"Outside, the cicadas are singing,"
he wrote to Theo.
"Scorched grass takes on
lovely tones of old gold.
I have no other news to tell you,
except that the fields here smell of thyme,
and the cicadas
still sing in ancient Greek."

I have been looking for this poem for a very long time.

Wearing Stillness Apr. 7th, 2015 @ 12:13 am

Judith Beveridge

The egret hesitates before it steps

towards an insect — it seems to wear

its stillness like a corset. Its neck

a white ceramic towards which

its mirrored knees might genuflect.

            Otherworldly, celibate –

oh, manicured object — you’re some

righteous sect’s uncharred lamp wick.

The last three lines of poem formed the epigraph of one of last year's heron poems.
Other entries
» Antique Wisdom
The Heron

Liam Ó Muirthile

The heron, stock-still,
is her own bird image
in the water.

The surface doubles her patience,
a gift, presented to us
for nothing.

Startled by an abrupt sound
her neck erupts upright,
totally alert.

She swoops back into her upright self again,
brimming with her own depth,

She stands perfectly fixed.
If she stirred she’d slip
outside her form.

They’re all the one. She peers through
her own bird’s eye view, clear
to the bedrock.

Tide in tide out
she scoops a beak full with a grin
of antique wisdom.
» The Need to Make a Mark
Papyrus Fragment

Annette Skade

A buff-brown moth hovers
on temperature controlled neon,
displays paper thin wings,
ragged margins of ancient grass
speckled with alpha, omega, nu.

It darts, bares a blaze
of underwing to plain sight;
this endless, fragile need
to make a mark,
to come to light.
» The Courage to Abandon

Marge Piercy

The courage to let go of the door, the handle.
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blattering storm
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.
The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,
the small bones of children and the brittle bones
of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;
the courage to desert the tree planted and only
begun to bear; the riverside where promises were
shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.
The courage to leave the place whose language you learned
as early as your own, whose customs however dan-
gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter
you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;
the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;
the roads mapped and annotated for survival.
The courage to walk out of the pain that is known
into the pain that cannot be imagined,
mapless, walking into the wilderness, going
barefoot with a canteen into the desert;
stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship
sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths,
Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina
leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.
So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way
out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed
out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe
on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—
out of pain into death or freedom or a different
painful dignity, into squalor and politics.
We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes
under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours
raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed
tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,
who walked into the strange and became strangers
and gave birth to children who could look down
on them standing on their shoulders for having
been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.

First night of Passover.
» Poppies

Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

Mary Oliver always delivers.
» (No Subject)
Start of National Poetry Month. A poem a day for as long as I can keep it up.

Here's an offering recently posted by exceptindreams to start us off.

Making It Up as You Go Along

Bin Ramke

Lucretius loved Epicurus, knew
the world through him; his
meaning was clear: love as a way
of knowing, of assuming the known.

To know is to narrate.
People die trying to tell what
it was like there then. Others
die of not trying. The form of this
telling is, for example,
a trellis. A growth controlled
unpredictable within measure.

Trellis. Tri licium. Three threads.
The weaver knows
through the fingers the way worlds
hold together. Basket makers.
The shadow of a trellis is filled
against itself, against measure.
See the sun try again to
stop the movement of the rose

climbing among the woven ways.
» The Path from Here to There
Out All Day

John Donlan

Finger-combing deerfly carcasses
out of what’s left of my hair
I puzzle over my most minute machinery,
the “cascade of chemical reactions,”

proteins, electric snakes bunched,
their branched and folded chains
like overtwisted flex cord, flickering
with life, without thought, without intention.

The path from there to here
has too many connections, overwhelms,
as when a widower, hearing his wife’s name,

Dragonflies hover and dart like gunships
and I scratch my head, and the pond’s
lacy scrim of lilypads might map the molecule
of happiness, thirty thousand atoms long.

July 24, 2009

I like poems with a macro/micro focus (that's how I think of it anyway), but I'm not sure this one completely succeeds with its nearly-complete extreme closeup view. For me the hangup is mostly in the first line. Why are you combing dead bugs out of your hair?
» Video Interlude
Kerstin Blodig and Ian Melrose (Kelpie) - Kråka (Germany/UK)

Kyle Carey - North Star (USA)

The Gloaming - Sailor's Bonnet (Ireland)

» Looking Back
Delayed Reactions

Sherman Pearl

After the hammer slams down on your thumb
or the hurtful word penetrates,
a stunned moment follows.

You're like a soldier who feels no pain until he sees the wound.

Happiness, too, is sometimes slow to register.

It was years after the rain had sent
me and the girl huddled close to me dashing for cover
that I suddenly felt the drops.
» O California
O California

Sarah Holland-Batt

I want to wake in the lagoon of the sky
where sunlight binds the mutilated palm-tree dawn
like duct tape, an aerial shot rolling and rolling
out of town in the muffled trunk of a brown panel van
along the death roads, the desert roads, the hairpin
turns, California, the desert silvering in my eye
like a coyote, I want to swim in the jewel jade pool
of your lonesome foothill vowels,
stretch out under the mirroring clouds
like a million rooftop deck chairs, feel
that blankness unfurl in my mind like luxury,
California, your beautiful blankness, your sheen.
O, shake me a basil gimlet in Silver Lake
and tell me about your tattoos, hermana, how death
is that bad tooth wobbling in my head,
in my head, California, that skyline that breaks
into backdrop hills I know like nostalgia, pink saguaro
and sumac, the ripe berries smashed like bodies,
each ragged cactus cross hoisting up against a silver
desert screen, California, and night that goes on like a drive-in,
palms exploding like napalm, fireworking over everything.
I want to ride the long smooth tan body
of California, I want to eat the bear of the flag
of California, I want to roll like a corpse off the highway
of your chase scenes, I want my perfect teeth
preserved, California, my teeth buried
in the earth like a curse, California, and won't you show me
where the bodies are kept, California,
won't you show me, show me, show me.

An Australian poet's SoCal fever dream, found in this week's New Yorker. Oz/LA/NYC, an odd conjunction of the planets.
» (No Subject)
The Sciences Sing A Lullaby

Albert Goldbarth

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you're tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance
inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
by inch America is giving itself
to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren't alone. All of the continents used to be
one body. You aren't alone. Go to sleep.

Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.
» A Glance with Rapid Eyes
(A Bird Came Down the Walk) (excerpt)

Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk --
He did not know I saw --
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

Breaking the ice on 2015...
» Well OK Then
Sometimes I find poems back-to-back relating to the same theme. In this case, callbacks to Greek and Latin classes where you're just not getting enough out of the material.

Riposte to Ode

Michael Homolka

It isn't like that       Horace Life stresses us out
However many hundreds of decades later       we're told
to welcome anxiety is beneficial
and to       quote       honor our imperfections

You've got the Adriatic Sea       We've got       what
the Finger Lakes?       Not quite as conducive
to worrying the infinite question       so we worry
about other things       equities       statistics

I'm not really a wine man either
not in the unmixed sense where Alcibiades
might barge in any moment and out-naked us all
I'm an American so I prefer pig iron

Wildflowers abound somewhere I'm sure
I don't know anything about flowers though
Few of us in the cities follow them
the way you seem to       as if tracking currencies

But to speak to your point about an actual
battlefront approaching Main Street       who knows?
Maybe we would resort to hookers and crack
per your suggestion I can't say       Horace       I wish I could

Pig iron? Don't ask me, I have no idea. I did some Horace here, once upon a time. And here's a poem about Alcibiades, who will always out-naked everyone at every party.
» Nonsense: It's Greek to Me
A little earlier this evening, RC mentioned a library book that she had found back when she was in high school, about six years ago. It was big, yellow, rather scholarly anthology of nonsense poetry, and we enjoyed it a lot. I wrote down my favorites, and one of them immediately went on my Facebook page, in the part of the profile section that nobody ever looks at any more (these days it's called "Details About You" and takes at least two clicks to get to from your main profile page). This particular poem is silly and fantastical, but it's not nonsense at all. It was, in fact, extremely relatable to my life in 2008. I'll share the poem, and then I'll footnote it.

To Minerva (from the Greek)

My temples throb, my pulses boil,
I'm sick of Song and Ode and Ballad--
So, Thyrsis, take the Midnight Oil
And pour it on a lobster salad.

My brain is dull, my sight is foul,
I cannot write a verse, or read--
Then, Pallas, take away thine Owl,
And let us have a Lark instead!

--Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

*Thyrsis: a name from a pastoral Greek poem by Theocritus
*Midnight Oil: what you burn when you stay up too late. Usually lamp oil, not salad oil!
*Minerva and Pallas: names for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom
*Owl: Athena's symbol
*have a lark: have a good, cheery time

Some time in the early 19th century, Thomas Hood was sitting up bleary-eyed long past midnight, surrounded by piles of Greek poetry, dictionaries, and grammars. He was DONE. He longed to throw them all across the room, go out with his friends, and grab a cheap bite to eat (RC pointed out as we were talking, in the Regency period lobster salad was a very inexpensive food. Jailed prisoners used to complain about being given too much lobster to eat). In 2008-09, I was in exactly the same position, right down to the fucking Theocritus with his shepherds and his spurned lovers and his paraclausithyra. I posted Hood's poem on my profile with the words, "Proof that too much Greek homework has been keeping students up too late, and making us mentally unstable, for centuries." It's not nonsense--it's Classics.
» Where The Sea Pours Into The Stars
A Map of the World

Ted Kooser

One of the ancient maps of the world
is heart-shaped, carefully drawn
and once washed with bright colors,
though the colors have faded
as you might expect feelings to fade
from a fragile old heart, the brown map
of a life. But feeling is indelible,
and longing infinite, a starburst compass
pointing in all the directions
two lovers might go, a fresh breeze
swelling their sails, the future uncharted,
still far from the edge
where the sea pours into the stars.
» She Had Five Hummingbirds

Circe Maia

I thought she was exaggerating a little
when she said that every one of her hummingbirds--she had five--
had a distinct name and that they flew
freely in her garden, where they had
distinct feeders. "If not, they fight too much."

But it was like that, just like that:
I saw them once, when the house, alone,
invited a visit to the open back garden.

There they came flying like tiny
winged envoys
with urgent notices and warnings.
No name fit them well. Useless
words. Astonishment
at the rapid movement of the wings:
the not being able to look at them
the approach of their tiny hearts
beating so incredibly rapidly
close, very close,

and then suddenly shooting off, high,
Beings of our world but also of another,
only theirs.

Translated from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval.
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