bardachd: (Default)
When I went to the door, at the whisper of knocking,
I saw Simeon Gantner’s daughter, Kathleen, standing
There, in her shawl and her shame, sent to ask
“Forgiveness Flour” for her bread. “Forgiveness Flour,”
We call it in our corner. If one has erred, one
Is sent to ask for flour of his neighbors. If they loan it
To him, that means he can stay, but if they refuse, he had
Best take himself off. I looked at Kathleen . . .
What a jewel of a daughter, though not much like her
Father, more’s the pity. “I’ll give you flour,” I
Said, and went to measure it. Measuring was the rub.
If I gave too much, neighbors would think I made sin
Easy, but if I gave too little, they would label me
“Close.” While I stood measuring, Joel, my husband
Came in from the mill, a great bag of flour on his
Shoulder, and seeing her there, shrinking in the
Doorway, he tossed the bag at her feet. “Here, take
All of it.” And so she had flour enough for many loaves,
While I stood measuring.
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For the grace of fingers that could not grasp edges,
corners, or anchors. For hands that were too wet
to bridge the chasm of inches or rope. For the wrist
and its bending digits, for the drowned infants
who floated like wood past the dark hulls
of their mothers' bodies.

For the days-old corpses of women and men
whose wheelchairs became graves. For children
who were too shocked to speak their identities;
for the ghosts of their voices that haunt the flag
to which they were taught to pledge allegiance.

For the rainbows that assembled in their waters
diseased with gasoline and blood. For the voices
whose rage thundered like thunder inside the stadium
because they refused the musky death of animals.

For the men who fired guns at helicopters that passed over
their own nearly submerged heads. Over and over the blades whirred
promises of water and bread and help while mothers and daughters,
brothers and fathers drowned, their lives devoured by neglect.

Lives gave up on the living and floated to dark, drier islands.
Torrents rose over broken levees. Dead cattle bobbed along
interstates. Highways unfurled into ribbons and graves. The President
remained on vacation. The Secretary of State shopped for shoes.

For Charmaine Neville who commandeered down Canal Street
while storefronts shattered and bodies were raped. Helpless fists pounded
the bus window like bullets. For the junkies who needed something
stronger than death or a dream to placate their addictions.
For the residents who refused to abandon the corpse of New Orleans.

For a husband who could not save his entire family
because he only had two hands. For their house split
in half by water. For his wife’s last words: you can’t hold on
and hold me. For the absence of God as she dropped his hands
and gave herself like a petal to the gulf.

For her son who understood, as he climbed onto the roof
by the help of two trembling hands, that his father, only
a man and not a god, could not save his mother's life
from something as inexplicable as water.
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You read the old Irish poet and complain
I do not offer you impossible things -
Gloves of bees fur, cap of wren's wings,
Goblets so clear light falls on them like a stain.
I make you the harder offer of all I can,
The good and ill that make of me this man.

I need no fancy to mark you as beautiful,
If you are beautiful. All I know is what
Darkens and brightens the sad waste of my thought
Is what makes me your wild, truth-telling fool
Who will not spoil your power by adding one
Vainglorious image to all we've said and done.

Flowers need no fantasy, stones need no dream:
And you are flower and stone. And I compel
Myself to be no more than possible,
Offering nothing that might one day seem
A measure of your failure to be true
To the greedy vanity that disfigures you.

A cloak of the finest silk in Scotland - what
Has that to do with troubled nights and days
Of sorry happiness? I had no praise
Even of your kindness, that was not bought
At such a price this bankrupt self is all
I have to give. And is that impossible?
bardachd: (Default)
A house burns all night
In the middle of a field.
A beautiful sight
Even if the burning house
Does happen to be mine.
Sooner or later
All burning houses will be mine.


Suzanne Buffman
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I cannot stammer thunder in your sky
Or flash white phrases there. I have no terse
Exploding passion, and cannot vilify
My dulcet world through flute-holes of a verse,
But gently speak and, gently speaking, prove
The everlastingness in which you move.

No superscription in a cloud need sign
Either my love or hate to show they are
Come from a source more terrible than mine.
And I need bow to no peremptory star:
A finger writes, and there is star - or me,
With love or hate to cloud identify.

And time's inflections cannot alter this
Most gentle truth, that fire and thunderhead
Are momentary metamorphosis
Of the most gentle word ever was said
Into what means not less of gentleness
Being accepting being, and saying Yes.
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God has a brown voice,
as soft and full as beer.
Eleanor, who is more beautiful than my mother,
is standing in her kitchen talking
and I am breathing in my cigarettes like poison.
She stands in her lemon-colored sun dress
motioning to God with her wet hands
glossy from the washing of egg plates.
She tells him! She tells him like a drunk
who doesn’t need to see to talk.
It’s casual but friendly.
God is as close as the ceiling.

Though no one can ever know,
I don’t think he has a face.
He had a face when I was six and a half.
Now he is large, covering up the sky
like a great resting jellyfish.
When I was eight I thought the dead people
stayed up there like blimps.
Now my chair is as hard as a scarecrow
and outside the summer flies sing like a choir.
Eleanor, before he leaves tell him
Oh Eleanor, Eleanor,
tell him before death uses you up.



Anne Sexton
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Hey, I am learning what it means to ride condemned.
I may be breaking up. I am doing 85 outside the kingdom

Of heaven, under the overpass and passed over,
The past is over and I’m over the past. My odometer

Is broken, can you help me? When you get this mess-
Age, I may be a half-ton crush, a half tone of mist

And mystery, maybe trooper bait with the ambulance
Ambling somewhere, or a dial of holy stations, a band-

Age of clamor and spooling, a dash and semaphore,
A pupil of motion on my way to be buried or planted or

Crammed or creamed, treading light and water or tread
and trepidation, maybe. Hey, I am backfiring along a road

Through the future, I am alive skidding on the tongue,
When you get this message, will you sigh, My lover is gone?

Terrance Hayes
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I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
bardachd: (Default)
You wash wool with shampoo. If you learn nothing
else today, learn that, to use shampoo
and water the temperature of a baby's bath.
What I have in the sink here aren't argyles,

but proper kilt hose I knit stitch by stitch, gray
for daytime, formal whites, choosing among
dozens of possible cuffs, customized gussets
to accommodate the bulging calves

of Scottish country dancers, whose heels must never
touch the floor, perpetual Barbie-feet
moving through jigs, reels, strathspays, till sweat and effort
equal ease and grace. The ones who say

"the important thing is just to have fun" miss
the most fun and the point, which is not fun
but joy, daughter of the difficult.
It's the kind of lesson climate teaches,

climates where sheer survival is success,
complaint as bad as cowardice, the humor deadpan,
self-control a given, not a goal --
an attitude empires find useful. Thermopolae, Dunkirk;

to delay catastrophe they place the best
regiments behind, the Spartans, Scots,
murdered or interned for the duration.
The Spartans combed and died. The Scots composed

a dance for captured warriors, "The Reel
of the 51st." Bemused Nazi guards
watched them practice, muscles taut as barbed wire.
It's hell to dance. These socks are stomped to felt,

dancing defiance of Nazis long since dead. No one
would knit these hose for any amount of money
a Scot would pay. Only one currency
is deep enough. I pat them out to dry.

- by Susan Ramsey
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I have seen flowers come in stony places
And kind things done by men with ugly faces,
And the gold cup won by the worst horse at the races,
So I trust, too.
bardachd: (Default)
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 and
History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.
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Look and remember. Look upon this sky;
Look deep and deep into the sea-clean air,
The unconfined, the terminus of prayer.
Speak now and speak into the hallowed dome.
What do you hear? What does the sky reply?
The heavens are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this sea;
Look down and down into the tireless tide.
What of a life below, a life inside,
A tomb, a cradle in the curly foam?
The waves arise; sea-wind and sea agree
The waters are taken: this is not your home.

Look and remember. Look upon this land,
Far, far across the factories and the grass.
Surely, there, surely they will let you pass.
Speak then and ask the forest and the loam.
What do you hear? What does the land command?
The earth is taken: this is not your home.
bardachd: (Default)
I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.
bardachd: (Default)
Water, moonlight, danger, dream.
Bronze urn, angled on a tree root: one
Slash of light, then gone. A red moon
Seen through clouds, or almost seen.

Treasure found but lost, flirting between
The worlds of lost and found. An unjust law
Repealed, a wish come true, a lifelong
Sadness healed. Haven, in the mind,

To anyone hurt by littleness. A prayer
For the moment, saved; treachery forgiven.
Flame of the crackle-glaze tangle, amber
Reflected in grey milk-jade. An old song
Remembered, long debt paid.
A painting on silk, which may fade.
bardachd: (Default)
Don’t say you didn’t see this coming, Jason.

Don’t say you didn’t realize this would be my reaction
and that you never intended for me to get all worked up,
because if that were true, then you are dumber
than Lenny from Mice and Men, blinder than Oedipus
and Tierus put together and can feel less
than a Dalton Trumbo character.

You put the Dick in Dickens and the Boo in kowski
and are more Coward-ly then Noël.

But you don’t understand any of these references,
Do you, Jason? Because you ‘don’t read’.
You are a geology major and you once told me
That, ‘Scientists don’t read popular literature,
Cristin, we have more important things to do’.

Well, fuck you.

Be glad you don’t read, Jason,
because maybe you won’t understand this
as I scream it to you on your front lawn,
on Christmas Day, brandishing three hypodermic needles,
a ginsu knife and a letter of permission
from Bret Easton Ellis.

Jason, you are more absurd than Ionesco.
You are more abstract than Joyce,
more inconsistent than Agatha Christie
and more Satanic than Rushdie’s verses.

I can’t believe I used to want to Sappho you, Jason.
I used to want to Pablo Neruda you,
to Anais Nin And Henry Miller you. I used to want
to be O for you, to blow for you in ways
that even Odysseus’ sails couldn’t handle.
But self-imposed illiteracy isn’t a turn-on.

You used to make fun of me being a writer,
saying ‘Scientists cure diseases,
what do writers do?’

But of course, you wouldn’t understand, Jason.
I mean, have you ever gotten an inner thirsting
for Zora Neale Hurston?
Or heard angels herald for you
to read F Scott Fitzgerald?
Have you ever had a beat attack for Jack Kerouac?
The only Morrison you know is Jim, and you think
you’re the noble one?

Go Plath yourself.

Your heart is so dark, that even Joseph Conrad
couldn’t see it, and it is so buried under bullshit
that even Poe’s cops couldn’t hear it.

Your mind is as empty as the libraries in Fahrenheit 451.
Your mind is as empty as Silas Marner’s coffers.
Your mind is as empty as Huckleberry Finn’s wallet.

And some people might say that this poem
is just a pretentious exercise
in seeing how many literary references
I can come up with.

And some people might complain that this poem is,
at its core, shallow, expressing the same emotion again,
and again, and again. (I mean, there are only so many times
you can articulate your contempt for Jason,
before people get bored.)

But you know what, Jason? Those people would be wrong.

Because this is not the poem I am writing to express
my hatred for you.

This poem is the poem I am writing because we aren’t speaking,
and it is making my heart hurt so bad, it is all I
can do just to get up off the floor sometimes.

And this is the poem I am writing instead of writing
the ‘I miss having breakfast with you’ poem, instead of
writing the ‘Let’s walk dogs in our old schoolyard
again’ poem.

Instead of the ‘How are you doing?’ poem, the ‘I miss you’ poem,
the ‘I wish I was making fun of how much you like Garth
Brooks while sitting in front of your parents’ house
in your jeep’ poem, instead of the ‘Holidays are coming around
and you know what that means: SUICIDE!’ poem.

I am writing this so that I can stop wanting to write
the ‘I could fall in love with you again so quickly
if only you would say one more word to me’ poem.

But I am tired of loving you, Jason
cause you don’t love me right.

And if some pretentious-ass poem can stop me
From thinking about the way your laugh sounds,
about the way your skin feels in the rain,
about how I would rather be miserable with you,
then happy with anyone else in the world.

If some pretentious-ass poem can do all that?
Then I am gone with the wind, I am on the road,
I have flown over the fucking cuckoo’s nest,
I am gone, I am gone, I am gone.

I am.
bardachd: (Default)
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
bardachd: (Default)
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
bardachd: (Default)
I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat
and smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean. I would go to him where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles,
his calves, the pads and bones of his feet.
Then I'd open his clothes and take
the whole day inside me -- the ship's
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the first man clanging
off the hull's silver ribs, spark of lead
kissing metal, the clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle
and the long drive home.
bardachd: (Default)
I come in from a walk
With you
And they ask me
If it is raining.

I didn’t notice
But I’ll have to give them
The right answer
Or they’ll think I’m crazy.
bardachd: (Default)
Cross the hands over the breast here-so.
Straighten the legs a little more-so.
And call for the wagon to come and take her home.
Her mother will cry some and so will her sisters and
brothers.
But all of the others got down and they are safe and
this is the only one of the factory girls who
wasn't lucky in making the jump when the fire broke.
It is the hand of God and the lack of fire escapes.

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