levity: (desire lives in the heart)
1

        The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
     and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
            and you are ready to die in this swimming pool
  because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
                              your life is over anyway.
         You’re in the eighth grade. You know these things.
  You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
      long division,
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
                  he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
                                              didn’t do,
      because you are weak and hollow and it doesn’t matter anymore.


2

      A dark-haired man in a rented bungalow is licking the whiskey
from the back of your wrist.
         He feels nothing,
             keeps a knife in his pocket,
                         peels an apple right in front of you
         while you tramp around a mustard-colored room
in your underwear
                 drinking Dutch beer from a green bottle.
      After everything that was going to happen has happened
you ask only for the cab fare home
            and realize you should have asked for more
                         because he couldn’t care less, either way.

The man on top of you is teaching you how to hate, sees you as a piece of real estate )
levity: (evening stretched out against the sky)
Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite "The boy stood on
the burning deck." Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.
levity: (evening stretched out against the sky)
Your first time out of the country
of your own skin, I didn’t bring a map.

You always hated that I’d been lucky
enough to pick my way through streets

I couldn’t pronounce to find cathedrals,
graveyards. If you were a city, you said,

I’d only like to know your suburbs.

If you were a city, I said, I’d like to know
your poor neighborhoods, your inner parts.

Read your graffiti. Drink your tap water.
Feel your smog and dirt stick to my sweat.

Hear your orchestra of sirens and gunshots.
I’d know which of your streets to walk.

If you were a city, I’d expect to be robbed.
levity: (clarity)
THE Cathedral bell, tolled, could never tell;
nor the Liver Birds, mute in their stone spell;
or the Mersey, though seagulls wailed, cursed, overhead,
in no language for the slandered dead...
not the raw, red throat of the Kop, keening,
or the cops’ words, censored of meaning;
not the clock, slow handclapping the coroner’s deadline,
or the memo to Thatcher, or the tabloid headline...
but fathers told of their daughters; the names of sons
on the lips of their mothers like prayers; lost ones
honoured for bitter years by orphan, cousin, wife -
not a matter of football, but of life.
Over this great city, light after long dark;
truth, the sweet silver song of the lark.
levity: (beauty is a hint of storm)
We can stick anything into the fog and make it look like a ghost.
But tonight let us not become tragedies.

We are not funeral homes
with propane tanks in our windows
lookin’ like cemeteries.
Cemeteries are just the Earth’s way of not letting go.
Let go.
Tonight, poets, let’s turn our wrists so far backwards
the razor blades in our pencil tips
can’t get a good angle on all that beauty inside.

Step into this.
With your airplane parts.
Move forward.
And repeat after me with your heart:
I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself.
Make love to me
like you know I am better than the worst thing I ever did.
Go slow.
I’m new to this,
but I have seen nearly every city from a rooftop
without jumping.

I have realized that the moon
did not have to be full for us to love it.
That we are not tragedies
stranded here beneath it.
That if our hearts
really broke
every time we fell from love
I’d be able to offer you confetti by now.
But hearts don’t break, y’all,
they bruise and get better.
We were never tragedies.
We were emergencies.
You call 9 – 1 – 1.
Tell them I’m havin’ a fantastic time.
levity: (clarity)
You believed in your own story,
then climbed inside it—
a turquoise flower.
You gazed past ailing trees,
past crumbling walls and rusty railings.
Your least gesture beckoned a constellation
of wild vetch, grasshoppers, and stars
to sweep you into immaculate distances.

The heart may be tiny
but the world's enormous.

And the people in turn believe—
in pine trees after rain,
ten thousand tiny suns, a mulberry branch
bent over water like a fishing-rod,
a cloud tangled in the tail of a kite.
Shaking off dust, in silver voices
ten thousand memories sing from your dream.

The world may be tiny
but the heart's enormous.


trans. Donald Finkel
levity: (all these things that I've done)
1. Offer the wolves your arm only from the elbow down. Leave tourniquet space. Do not offer them your calves. Do not offer them your side. Do not let them near your femoral artery, your jugular. Give them only your arm.

2. Wear chapstick when kissing the bomb.

3. Pretend you don't know English.

4. Pretend you never met her.

5. Offer the bomb to the wolves. Offer the wolves to the zombies.

6. Only insert a clean knife into your chest. Rusty ones will cause tetanus. Or infection.

7. Don't inhale.

8. Realize that this love was not your trainwreck, was not the truck that flattened you, was not your Waterloo, did not cause massive hemorrhaging from a rusty knife. That love is still to come.

9. Use a rusty knife to cut through most of the noose in a strategic place so that it breaks when your weight is on it.

10. Practice desperate pleas for attention, louder calls for help. Learn them in English, French, Spanish: May Day, Aidez-Moi, Ayúdeme.

11. Don't kiss trainwrecks. Don't kiss knives. Don't kiss.

12. Pretend you made up the zombies, and only superheroes exist.

13. Pretend there is no kryptonite.

14. Pretend there was no love so sweet that you would have died for it, pretend that it does not belong to someone else now, pretend like your heart depends on it because it does. Pretend there is no wreck -- you watched the train go by and felt the air brush your face and that was it. Another train passing. You do not need trains. You can fly. You are a superhero. And there is no kryptonite.

15. Forget her name.

25.

May. 1st, 2012 02:01 am
levity: (evening stretched out against the sky)

This is my favorite poem in the whole world.

Well, that's ridiculous, of course, because I can pick out a favorite poem about just as well as I can pick out a favorite book- that is, not well at all. But sometimes people ask you what your favorite book is, and sometimes it's easier not to go on about how you can't have a favorite, because picking one- or two, or three, or whatever- means not acknowledging all the others that you've read that affected how you read the one (two, three, etc.) you picked, and because there are desert island books and there are books that were there for you in your time of need and vulnerability and there are formative books and there are books that will always make you believe in things and there are books that are just plain brilliant. For official purposes, my formative books are Madeleine L'Engles and the brilliant book is Captain Corelli's Mandolin and the ones that make me believe are Discworld and Tolkien, and my favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.

And this is my desert island poem and the poem I wish I'd written and the poem I can sink into any time and the poem I've quoted from on my phone's start-up message and on my e-mail footers since I was fourteen, so I guess it's fair to say that if I had a favorite poem, it would be this one, so I'd like to close my poetry month posting with it. You can all me a cliche now. Thank you for reading along, guys. :D

---

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                               10
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.


In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo. )

25.

May. 1st, 2012 02:01 am
levity: (evening stretched out against the sky)

This is my favorite poem in the whole world.

Well, that's ridiculous, of course, because I can pick out a favorite poem about just as well as I can pick out a favorite book- that is, not well at all. But sometimes people ask you what your favorite book is, and sometimes it's easier not to go on about how you can't have a favorite, because picking one- or two, or three, or whatever- means not acknowledging all the others that you've read that affected how you read the one (two, three, etc.) you picked, and because there are desert island books and there are books that were there for you in your time of need and vulnerability and there are formative books and there are books that will always make you believe in things and there are books that are just plain brilliant. For official purposes, my formative books are Madeleine L'Engles and the brilliant book is Captain Corelli's Mandolin and the ones that make me believe are Discworld and Tolkien, and my favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.

And this is my desert island poem and the poem I wish I'd written and the poem I can sink into any time and the poem I've quoted from on my phone's start-up message and on my e-mail footers since I was fourteen, so I guess it's fair to say that if I had a favorite poem, it would be this one, so I'd like to close my poetry month posting with it. You can all me a cliche now. Thank you for reading along, guys. :D

---

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                               10
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.


In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo. )

24.

Apr. 30th, 2012 10:21 am
levity: (clarity)
Antilamentation

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.


- Dorianne Laux

24.

Apr. 30th, 2012 10:21 am
levity: (clarity)
Antilamentation

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don't bother remembering
any of it. Let's stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.


- Dorianne Laux

23.

Apr. 30th, 2012 02:31 am
levity: (bring it)
And the previous poem's older sibling, which will always be associated with Muonsters English class and Igitot saying that the narrator was making a toast to my family.

(Odysseus was always my favorite, if only because of what everyone else piled on top of the originalest stuff. He never got to go home and he went to see the edge of the world because that was what was next and Dante sent him to hell for it. Fairest you can get, then, if because it doesn't really matter. I never did figure out why everyone preferred to call him by his Roman name; nobody goes on ulysseys, but that may just be to prevent confusion.)

---

Ulysses

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees:  All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea:  I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
Life piled on life/Were all too little )

23.

Apr. 30th, 2012 02:31 am
levity: (bring it)
And the previous poem's older sibling, which will always be associated with Muonsters English class and Igitot saying that the narrator was making a toast to my family.

(Odysseus was always my favorite, if only because of what everyone else piled on top of the originalest stuff. He never got to go home and he went to see the edge of the world because that was what was next and Dante sent him to hell for it. Fairest you can get, then, if because it doesn't really matter. I never did figure out why everyone preferred to call him by his Roman name; nobody goes on ulysseys, but that may just be to prevent confusion.)

---

Ulysses

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees:  All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea:  I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
Life piled on life/Were all too little )

22.

Apr. 30th, 2012 01:15 am
levity: (that flighty temptress adventure)
Ithaca

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.


- Constantine P. Cavafy

22.

Apr. 30th, 2012 01:15 am
levity: (that flighty temptress adventure)
Ithaca

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.


- Constantine P. Cavafy

21.

Apr. 28th, 2012 10:13 pm
levity: (costume party)
Animal Functionsong

Make me a place of peace, and leisure
    spider, beaver, mountainwasp
Teach me pain's more beautiful gesture
    oyster, salmon, eiderduck
Let me survive past Time that bred me
    lemur, tapir, coelacanth
Lead me into the cared-for family
    lioness, dambear, pelican
But if I pray too huge this morning
    buffalo, mountain gorilla, white rhino
Asking one gift too outré
    tusk, milk, civet-musk, panther-silk, ambergris
Thieve me a least sweep scrap of fatback
    packrat, jackdaw, jay


- Albert Goldbarth

21.

Apr. 28th, 2012 10:13 pm
levity: (costume party)
Animal Functionsong

Make me a place of peace, and leisure
    spider, beaver, mountainwasp
Teach me pain's more beautiful gesture
    oyster, salmon, eiderduck
Let me survive past Time that bred me
    lemur, tapir, coelacanth
Lead me into the cared-for family
    lioness, dambear, pelican
But if I pray too huge this morning
    buffalo, mountain gorilla, white rhino
Asking one gift too outré
    tusk, milk, civet-musk, panther-silk, ambergris
Thieve me a least sweep scrap of fatback
    packrat, jackdaw, jay


- Albert Goldbarth

20.

Apr. 28th, 2012 01:34 pm
levity: (Jolteon and Togepi)
Glass, Blood, and Ash

I.


Please, silk-​​sister, do this thing for me.

I do not want to sit on that broad-​​backed horse,
or smell his skin, grassy and hot as boiled husks,
inside a shirt ropy with gold tassels and primogeniture.

I never wanted it. I just
wanted to look like you
for one night. It should be you
hoisted up like a sack of wheat—
I stole your ruby comb,
your garnet pendant.
It must have been
your jewels he loved.

You will like it — they will put emeralds in your hair
and a thin gold crown on your head.
They will rub your skin down to supple
like a favorite tiger, soon to be
a favorite carpet.
Your spine is fit to queen-​​posture, not mine.

It is only a little shoe, only a little lie.
It was made from a mirror whose glass
was ground in another tale.
Look into it. It surely sings
that you are the fairer.

The doves, their claws still dusty with kitchen-​​ash
brought me a knife hammered out of a diamond.

It is so thin
that a breath will shatter it,
but so sharp
that the flesh it cleaves
does not even know
it has been cut.

Give me your heel.
I am the kind one, remember?
I would not hurt you.

Please, we are sisters;
out of the same striped pelt
did our father scissor our hearts.
Do this thing for me
your sister is afraid of the man
who loves her so much
he cannot remember her face.

Hold your breath—
I shall hold mine.

I never wanted it. I only wanted to stand in that torchlight for a second. )

20.

Apr. 28th, 2012 01:34 pm
levity: (Jolteon and Togepi)
Glass, Blood, and Ash

I.


Please, silk-​​sister, do this thing for me.

I do not want to sit on that broad-​​backed horse,
or smell his skin, grassy and hot as boiled husks,
inside a shirt ropy with gold tassels and primogeniture.

I never wanted it. I just
wanted to look like you
for one night. It should be you
hoisted up like a sack of wheat—
I stole your ruby comb,
your garnet pendant.
It must have been
your jewels he loved.

You will like it — they will put emeralds in your hair
and a thin gold crown on your head.
They will rub your skin down to supple
like a favorite tiger, soon to be
a favorite carpet.
Your spine is fit to queen-​​posture, not mine.

It is only a little shoe, only a little lie.
It was made from a mirror whose glass
was ground in another tale.
Look into it. It surely sings
that you are the fairer.

The doves, their claws still dusty with kitchen-​​ash
brought me a knife hammered out of a diamond.

It is so thin
that a breath will shatter it,
but so sharp
that the flesh it cleaves
does not even know
it has been cut.

Give me your heel.
I am the kind one, remember?
I would not hurt you.

Please, we are sisters;
out of the same striped pelt
did our father scissor our hearts.
Do this thing for me
your sister is afraid of the man
who loves her so much
he cannot remember her face.

Hold your breath—
I shall hold mine.

I never wanted it. I only wanted to stand in that torchlight for a second. )

19.

Apr. 28th, 2012 01:22 am
levity: (words in the heart cannot be taken)
Watched The Two Towers with the family this evening. Every time I watch it I forget exactly why, and how much, I dislike it, because the presence of Ents should cure all ills; halfway through I go, right, Faramir.

None of which has anything to do with the poem, aside from providing reasons where none should be necessary. Anyway.

---

Lament For Théoden

From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning
with thane and captain rode Thengel's son:
to Edoras he came, the ancient halls
of the Mark-wardens mist-enshrouded;
golden timbers were in gloom mantled.
Farewell he bade to his free people,
hearth and high-seat, and the hallowed places,
where long he had feasted ere the light faded.
Forth rode the king, fear behind him,
fate before him. Fealty kept he;
oaths he had taken, all fulfilled them.
Forth rode Théoden. Five nights and days
east and onward rode the Eorlingas
through Folde and Fenmarch and the Firienwood,
six thousand spears to Sunlending,
Mundburg the mighty under Mindolluin,
Sea-kings' city in the South-kingdom
foe-beleaguered, fire-encircled.
Doom drove them on. Darkness took them,
Horse and horseman; hoofbeats afar
sank into silence: so the songs tell us.


- J.R.R. Tolkien

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