A poetry tumblr run by former roommates likeitalics and kantmonkey.
“American poetry equals an enormous collection
of snapshots from which we divine the things observed
and the mind of the observer.”
“Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was a leap, but only owing
to its somewhat hysterical American apocalypse and rage.”
Are you going to interrupt me in my coastal snooze?
What are you going to do? Read all day long?
Crazy fox sparrow scratching back and forth
back and forth, back and forth
And that’s the end of the day again Joanne Kyger, “Phone Call from Milosz”
A hole is nothing
but what remains around it.
My brother stood
in the refrigerator light
drinking milk that poured
out of his head
through thick black curls
down his back into a puddle
growing larger around him.
My body stood between the
living room and kitchen
one foot on worn carpet
one on cold linoleum.
He couldn’t hear his name
clouding from my mouth
settling in the fluorescent air.
I wanted to put my finger
into the hole
feel the smooth channel
he escaped through
stop the milk
so he could swallow it
but my body held
as if driven into place.
The milk on the floor
reflected the light
then became it.
Floated upward and outward
filling every shadow
blowing the dark open.
Matt Rasmussen, “After Suicide”
From Black Aperture (2013)
Skinny old man, you concave sliver,
pushing your shopping cart down the street,
where’s the old woman, short time ago
whose hand you held and halved your woe,
One hand on the upright empty cart,
the other tight with her hand in it,
leaning against the rain or snow,
you and the woman who halved your woe.
Which scarves tied neatly around your heads,
and slowly wheeling that wobbly cart;
but now you’re alone and I want to know,
where is the woman who halved your woe?
I’d ask, if i knew you well enough,
all about your marvelous gift, and
pester you until you’d show
how you doubled yourself and halved your woe,
And tell me about the old women, I’d say,
and tell me what you are thinking now,
wheeling the cart with two hands as though
an empty cart can halve your woe. Art Schwartz, “Skinny Old Man with Shopping Cart”
The Castaway found
half-burnt stick or pen
to scribble help I am here
and he was hoisted on the deck with his inheritance
of bones lowered in the berth
and his eyes closed like a patient in a sick bed and he was carried along
like a boy.
They told him likethis better likethis on the soles the skin
the hands that stretched the sheets
said to him yesyes
you must return!
The swimming of the ocean
twin to the hull to the ribcage of the boat
taught him at the heart how to swim how
to survive told him the hands go from here to there
as the sea applauded on the other side.
he was enveloped in the whisper of the linen dining tables.
The tribe swallowed him up.
But that was
that they heard
of all those who found neither pen nor charcoal
because there was only sand all around. Tatiana Oroño, translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval, “Shipwrecked”
It is true, as you imagined, we do
much business here, mainly because
we are known as octoroons—
even the darkest among us—
and customers fill our parlors
to see the spectacle: black women
with white skin, exotic curiosities.
We are no surprise to the locals, though
visitors from the North make a great fuss,
and many debates occur between them
as to whether one can tell, just by looking,
our secret. The vilest among them say,
I can always smell a n*****.
Others look for evidence—telltale
half-moons in our fingernails,
a bluish tint beneath the skin.
In the parlor today,
a man resolved to find the hint
that would betray me, make me worth
the fee. He wore a monocle, moved in
close, his breath hot on my face.
I looked away from my reflection—
small and distorted—in his lens.
Natasha Trethewey, “August 1911”
From Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002)
Note: The racial slur is censored on this tumblr, but not in the published poem.
The sea lies in its bed wet and naked
in the dark. Half a moon glimmers on it
as though someone had come through
a door with the light behind. The woman thinks
of how they lived in the neighborhood
for years while she belonged to other men.
He moves toward her knowing he is about to
spoil the way they didn’t know each other.
Jack Gilbert, “Adults”
From Refusing Heaven (2005)
I pine. There is an obstacle to our love.
Every time I hear the post man, I think: At last, the letter!
He has overcome the obstacle—
(It is a large obstacle, an actual alp, with a tree line and sheer rock face
streaked with snow even in July)
for love of me! For three years, nine decades, and one century or so, there
has been no letter. I still wait for the letter.
But lately I wonder if my predicament is outside the human,
neither noble nor farcical; if my heart courts pain
because it aims for immortality, something grander
than I can imagine. Most of what I imagine,
what I want, is small: Hands with mine in the sink, washing dishes,
the smell of wool, feet tangling with mine in bed. I know
the gods punish the proud, but I do not yet know
why they punish the humble. Although after all
it is not humble to ask, every minute or so, for happiness.
April Bernard, “Romance”
Zeus always introduces himself
As one who needs stitching
Back together with kisses.
Like a rock star in leather
& a trick of silk falling
Between lost chances & never
Again. His disguises are almost
Mathematical, as Io & Europa
Pass from their dreams into his.
This lord of storm clouds
Is also a sun god crooning desire
& dalliance in a garden of nymphs.
Some days, he loves gloxinia,
& others, craves garlic blooms—
Hera, Aegina, & Callisto in the same song.
for Michael Longley
As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. Personal Helicon, by Seamus Heaney