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    poetry


    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Memory As a Hearing Aid
    by Tony Hoagland

    Somewhere, someone is asking a question,
    and I stand squinting at the classroom
    with one hand cupped behind my ear,
    trying to figure out where that voice is coming from.

    I might be already an old man,
    attempting to recall the night
    his hearing got misplaced,
    front-row-center at a battle of the bands,

    where a lot of leather-clad, second-rate musicians,
    amped up to dinosaur proportions,
    test drove their equipment through our ears.
    Each time the drummer threw a tantrum,

    the guitarist whirled and sprayed us with machine-gun riffs,
    as if they wished that they could knock us
    quite literally dead.
    We called that fun in 1970,

    when we werenít sure our lives were worth surviving.
    Iím here to tell you that they were,
    and many of us did, despite ourselves,
    though the road from there to here

    is paved with dead brain cells,
    parents shocked to silence,
    and squad cars painting the whole neighborhood
    the quaking tint and texture of red jelly.

    Friends, we should have postmarks on our foreheads
    to show where we have been;
    we should have pointed ears, or polka-dotted skin
    to show what we were thinking

    when we hot-rodded over Godís front lawn,
    and Death kept blinking.
    But here I stand, an average-looking man
    staring at a room

    where someone blond in braids
    with a beautiful belief in answers
    is still asking questions.

    Through the silence in my dead ear,
    I can almost hear the future whisper
    to the past: it says that this is not a test
    and everybody passes.
    BY TONY HOAGLAND

    ...Created 2006-06-04 16:06:22

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Jessica Goodfellow


    What You See If You Use Water as a Mirror



    In Shinto, the eight elements
    of beauty include impermanence
    and perishability. Choose one
    as your watermark. No,
    that is the wrong one.

    Begin by learning the 10,000 ways
    to spell water. Puddle, swamp,
    ice field: waters that don't
    move. Estuary, geyser,
    glacier: waters that do.

    At lunch today, someone said
    you were beautiful. The reader
    is beautiful, he said. You weren't
    there, but somewhere thinking
    lagoon, waterfall, tide pool.

    Knowing understatement is an element
    of beauty, you thought drizzle,
    fog, dew. All there is
    to know about beauty can be learned
    from water, so when you ask

    the other five elements, you are told
    mystery, incompleteness. Pause.
    To learn the final three is to dishonor
    the previous two. You must choose.
    But here's a clue: cove, tributary, sleet.

    ...Created 2006-03-30 20:23:22

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Otherworld
    Even the dogs in West Kerry know that the Otherworld
    exists and that to be in and out of it constantly is the most
    natural thing in the world.
    ó Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill



    This is where a woman fell
    to her death the other day,
    climbing the cliff.
    They found her face-up, spread-eagled
    on the sand, as if she'd been ravished
    by a god, or tried to fly.
    On this rare hot day in Wales,
    hang-gliders fill the down above,
    each aspiring Icarus fluttering
    silken, colored wings like the butterflies
    in the bracken, which smells, the guidebooks
    always say, of "desiccated coconut,"
    like the ghost of some tropical isle.
    She scaled these strata of seafloor
    crowded up into the air until they grew
    green and strewn with sheep on top,
    where we walk and flirt with the edge
    that boys clamber down to fish the ledges.
    And though the border collies
    bark at azure sea and sky, and try
    to herd us back to safety,
    as if they hear something we don't
    out there, we lean, and listen.


    William Greenway

    ...Created 2006-03-21 19:44:50

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    The Evening Star
    Tonight, for the first time in many years,
    there appeared to me again
    a vision of the earth's splendor:

    in the evening sky
    the first star seemed
    to increase in brilliance
    as the earth darkened

    until at last it could grow no darker.
    And the light, which was the light of death,
    seemed to restore to earth

    its power to console. There were
    no other stars. Only the one
    whose name I knew

    as in my other life I did her
    injury: Venus,
    star of the early evening,

    to you I dedicate
    my vision, since on this blank surface

    you have cast enough light
    to make my thought
    visible again.


    Louise GlŁck

    ...Created 2006-03-21 19:43:37

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Requests for Toy Piano
    by Tony Hoagland

    Play the one about the family of the ducks
    where the ducks go down to the river
    and one of them thinks the water will be cold
    but then they jump in anyway
    and like it and splash around.

    No, I must play the one
    about the nervous man from Palestine in row 14
    with a brown bag in his lap
    in which a gun is hidden in a sandwich.

    Play the one about the handsome man and woman
    standing on the steps of her apartment
    and how the darkness and her perfume and the beating of their hearts
    conjoin to make them feel
    like leaping from the edge of chanceó

    No, I should play the one about
    the hard rectangle of the credit card
    hidden in the manís back pocket
    and how the woman spent an hour
    plucking out her brows, and how her perfume
    was made from the destruction of a hundred flowers.

    Then play the one about the flower industry
    in which the migrant workers curse their own infected hands
    from tossing sheaves of roses and carnations
    into the back of the refrigerated trucks.

    No, I must play the one about the single yellow daffodil
    standing on my kitchen table
    whose cut stem draws the water upwards
    so the plant is flushed with the conviction

    that the water has been sent
    to find and raise it up
    from somewhere so deep inside the earth
    not even flowers can remember.

    ...Created 2006-03-21 19:40:50

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Kolmarden Zoo
    by Bill Coyle


    Over our heads, trailing a wake of air
    and an enormous shadow as it passed,
    the falcon glided to its trainerís fist
    and settled like a loaded weapon there.


    Then, while she fed the bird bit after bit
    of... what? rabbit? the trainer gave her talk:
    These birds, she said, prey on the small and weak,
    adding for the childrenís benefit


    that this, though it seems cruel, is really good
    since otherwise the other rabbits, mice,
    squirrels, what have you, would run out of space
    and die of illness or a lack of food.


    I know what she was trying to get across,
    and I donít doubt it would be healthier
    if we were more familiar than we are
    with how the natural world draws life from loss;


    and granted, nothing is more natural
    than death incarnate falling from the sky;
    and granted, it is better some should die,
    however agonizingly, than all.


    Still, to teach children this is how things go
    is one thing, to insist that it is good
    is something elseóit is to make a god
    of an unsatisfactory status quo,


    this vicious circle that the clock hands draw
    and quarter, while the serpent bites its tail,
    or eats the dust, or strikes at someoneís heel,
    or winds up comprehended by a claw.


    She launched the bird again. We watched it climb
    out of the amphitheatre, headed toward
    the darkened spires of a nearby wood,
    then bank, then angle toward us one last time.


    ...Created 2006-03-21 19:30:34

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Stephen Dobyns


    An Artist Like Any Other



    Let's say a fellow has a little trickó
    he can take a rock, toss it about ten feet,

    then take another, toss it so it lands on top,
    then take a third and toss it on top of that

    so all three make a little tower. Each rock
    is about the size of a child's fist. Any bigger

    or any further or if he tries a fourth, then
    it doesn't work. People are impressed,

    but how many times can you watch a guy
    do a trick like that? Shortly they wander off.

    Children last a little longer. The man's wife
    asks to see it once a week just to be nice.

    His kids say, Give it a break, Dad. Three
    rocks twirling through the air and landing

    perfectly, time after time. He never misses.
    The man feels proud. He'd do it all day long

    if anyone cared, but even the dog nods off.
    Let's say this is some vestigial blip, like that

    occasional tail that nurses snip off newborns.
    Once his ancestors tossed huge boulders, built

    pyramids, even Stonehenge. You wanted
    something really big transported? This was

    the guy to do it. How many of these leftovers
    do we have left? Cave painters shrunk into

    tattoo artists, epic poets whose last sparks ignite
    greeting card verse. Just as some day novelists

    might morph into the guys who make up menus
    for greasy spoons. Today a man flips a stone,

    then two more. Presto. See how they join to form
    a miniature defiance of the world's natural laws,

    a trifling metaphor for the enigmatic? No doubt
    about it, the fellow's an artist like any other.

    The neighbor's addlepated five-year-old slaps
    his head in wonder. At least the first time.


    ...Created 2006-03-21 19:25:00

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Who the Meek Are Not
    Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
    under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
    in the rice paddy muck,
    nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
    make the wheat fall in waves
    they don't get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
    nun says we misread
    that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
    To understand the meek
    (she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
    in a meadow, who ó
    at his master's voice ó seizes up to a stunned
    but instant halt.
    So with the strain of holding that great power
    in check, the muscles
    along the arched neck keep eddying,
    and only the velvet ears
    prick forward, awaiting the next order.


    Mary Karr

    ...Created 2006-03-02 04:00:50

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    A Poem for the End of the Century
    Czeslaw Milosz









    When everything was fine
    And the notion of sin had vanished
    And the earth was ready
    In universal peace
    To consume and rejoice
    Without creeds and utopias,

    I, for unknown reasons,
    Surrounded by the books
    Of prophets and theologians,
    Of philosophers, poets,
    Searched for an answer,
    Scowling, grimacing,
    Waking up at night, muttering at dawn.

    What oppressed me so much
    Was a bit shameful.
    Talking of it aloud
    Would show neither tact nor prudence.
    It might even seem an outrage
    Against the health of mankind.

    Alas, my memory
    Does not want to leave me
    And in it, live beings
    Each with its own pain,
    Each with its own dying,
    Its own trepidation.

    Why then innocence
    On paradisal beaches,
    An impeccable sky
    Over the church of hygiene?
    Is it because that
    Was long ago?

    To a saintly man
    --So goes an Arab tale--
    God said somewhat maliciously:
    "Had I revealed to people
    How great a sinner you are,
    They could not praise you."

    "And I," answered the pious one,
    "Had I unveiled to them
    How merciful you are,
    They would not care for you."

    To whom should I turn
    With that affair so dark
    Of pain and also guilt
    In the structure of the world,
    If either here below
    Or over there on high
    No power can abolish
    The cause and the effect?

    Don't think, don't remember
    The death on the cross,
    Though everyday He dies,
    The only one, all-loving,
    Who without any need
    Consented and allowed
    To exist all that is,
    Including nails of torture.

    Totally enigmatic.
    Impossibly intricate.
    Better to stop speech here.
    This language is not for people.
    Blessed be jubilation.
    Vintages and harvests.
    Even if not everyone
    Is granted serenity.

    Berkeley


    ...Created 2006-02-11 17:01:21

    dotsJournal: dots
    -------------------------------------------
    Mood: The Usual

    Margaret Szumowski


    The Unlikely Landscape of Forgiveness



    The way the land itself forgives flood
    and grows huge tomatoes the following year,
    shoots from black earth, rows of corn shuddering
    in the background. Still there is violence in the land,
    bolts of lightning that could set the barn on fire,
    and terrify the cows. Anger of the farmer
    who turns on his wife and daughters.
    Thirsty plants, heavy crops.
    He studies his little red notebook.
    Children and wife too much
    for a man under pressure. He could guard them
    jealously, as a red-winged blackbird guards his fields,
    letting no one near his beauties. He could peck out their eyes.
    And the half-blind beauties will forgive him.



    ...Created 2006-02-10 03:42:21

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    It means a lot to them, as it does to you.


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