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Category: Reading

I have learned over time that reading is just as important as writing to the writing life. Whenever I am reading a book (fiction, poetry, whatever), I often find myself WANTING to tell others about what I’m reading, to encourage them to read, to share a passage. This is where I can do that. In each post that I include a passage, I will also state where it came from so you will have the opportunity to read more of those posts you enjoyed.

Poem of the Day: Christine Garren

 

THE WOVEN MESSAGE

 

come hide near me

I’ll count however long I need to count the insects in the web—

I like

the still living ones—that beat of wing I hear

or

the still turned-on

ignition of the firefly—I see one’s underbelly

blink

on and off—come hide near me, somewhere in this wild grove, in its umbra green

where

my mind turns down the bed

 

—previously appeared with StorySouth

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Cynthia Cruz

 

SELF-PORTRAIT

 

I did not want my body
Spackled in the world’s
Black beads and broke
Diamonds. What the world

Wanted, I did not. Of the things
It wanted. The body of Sunday
Morning, the warm wine and
The blood. The dripping fox

Furs dragged through the black New
York snow—the parked car, the pearls,
To the first pew—the funders,
The trustees, the bloat, the red weight of

The world. Their faces. I wanted not
That. I wanted Saint Francis, the love of
His animals. The wolf, broken and bleeding—
That was me.

 

—previously appeared with The Academy of American Poets

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Claudia Rankine

 

/ 

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.

Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.

As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.

/

When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term—John Henryism—for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.

/

When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.

He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.

Now there you go, he responds.

The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.

/

A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off  by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.

The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of  bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.

/

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?

It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.

I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

/

 

—from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen
—previously appeared on The Poetry Foundation

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Allan Peterson

 

THE INEVITABLE

 

To have that letter arrive

was like the mist that took a meadow

and revealed hundreds

of small webs once invisible

The inevitable often

stands by plainly but unnoticed

till it hands you a letter

that says death and you notice

the weed field had been

readying its many damp handkerchiefs

all along

 

—from Allan Peterson’s Precarious, 42 Miles Press (2014)

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Ross Gay

 

BURIAL

 

You’re right, you’re right,
the fertilizer’s good—
it wasn’t a gang of dullards
came up with chucking
a fish in the planting hole
or some midwife got lucky
with the placenta—
oh, I’ll plant a tree here!
and a sudden flush of quince
and jam enough for months—yes,
the magic dust our bodies become
casts spells on the roots
about which someone else
could tell you the chemical processes,
but it’s just magic to me,
which is why a couple springs ago
when first putting in my two bare root plum trees
out back I took the jar which has become
my father’s house,
and lonely for him and hoping to coax him back
for my mother as much as me,
poured some of him in the planting holes
and he dove in glad for the robust air,
saddling a slight gust
into my nose and mouth,
chuckling as I coughed,
but mostly he disappeared
into the minor yawns of the earth
into which I placed the trees,
splaying wide their roots,
casting the gray dust of my old man
evenly throughout the hole,
replacing then the clods
of dense Indiana soil until the roots
and my father were buried,
watering it in all with one hand
while holding the tree
with the other straight as the flag
to the nation of simple joy
of which my father is now a naturalized citizen,
waving the flag
from his subterranean lair,
the roots curled around him
like shawls or jungle gyms, like
hookahs or the arms of ancestors,
before breast-stroking into the xylem,
riding the elevator up
through the cambium and into the leaves where,
when you put your ear close enough,
you can hear him whisper
good morning, where, if you close your eyes
and push your face you can feel
his stubby jowls and good lord
this year he was giddy at the first
real fruit set and nestled into the 30 or 40 plums
in the two trees, peering out from the sweet meat
with his hands pressed against the purple skin
like cathedral glass,
and imagine his joy as the sun
wizarded forth those abundant sugars
and I plodded barefoot
and prayerful at the first ripe plum’s swell and blush,
almost weepy conjuring
some surely ponderous verse
to convey this bottomless grace,
you know, oh father oh father kind of stuff,
hundreds of hot air balloons
filling the sky in my chest, replacing his intubated body
listing like a boat keel side up, replacing
the steady stream of water from the one eye
which his brother wiped before removing the tube,
keeping his hand on the forehead
until the last wind in his body wandered off,
while my brother wailed like an animal,
and my mother said, weeping,
it’s ok, it’s ok, you can go honey,
at all of which my father
guffawed by kicking from the first bite
buckets of juice down my chin,
staining one of my two button-down shirts,
the salmon-colored silk one, hollering
there’s more of that!
almost dancing now in the plum,
in the tree, the way he did as a person,
bent over and biting his lip
and chucking the one hip out
then the other with his elbows cocked
and fists loosely made
and eyes closed and mouth made trumpet
when he knew he could make you happy
just by being a little silly
and sweet.

 

—from Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Pittsburgh Poetry Series (2015)

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Chad Forbregd

 

CAPGUN

 

Imagine a boy holding a capgun.
Now, instead of a boy,

imagine a man holding a portrait
of a boy with a capgun.

There’s an orange tip painted
on the end of his assault rifle.

It’s okay, it just looks fake,
it’s actually quite real.

Later the boy will grow up, get married,
go off to work.

Some men get jobs to find love.
Some men get jobs to deprive themselves sex.

After a while, some men say not having sex
counts as having sex.

Sometimes after not having sex
the boy would take off his wedding ring and hide

it in his work boot or just go home
and microwave a burrito.

Now, imagine the boy alone.
Lonely like a trashcan in a trashless desert.

Lonely like the loneliness of other lonely people.
Lonely like the speed of light.

 

Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Robert Hass

 

THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING

 

Many are making love. Up above, the angels

in the unshaken ether and crystal

of human longing

are braiding one another’s hair, which is

strawberry blond

and the texture of cold rivers. They glance

down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—

it must look to them like featherless birds

splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—

and then one woman, she is about to come,

peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,

look at me, and he does. Or is it the man

tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?

Anyway, they do, they look at each other;

two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,

startled, connected at the belly

in an unbelievably sweet

lubricious glue, stare at each other,

and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They

shudder pathetically

like lithographs of Victorian beggars

with perfect features and alabaster

skin hawking rags

in the lewd alleys of the novel.

All of creation is offended by this distress.

It is like the keening sound

the moon makes sometimes,

rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,

it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that

they close their eyes again and hold

each other, each

feeling the mortal singularity of the body

they have enchanted out of death

for an hour or so,

and one day, running at sunset, the woman

says to the man,

I woke up feeling so sad this morning

because I realized

that you could not, as much as I love you,

dear heart, cure my loneliness,

wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him

that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.

And the man is not hurt exactly,

he understands that life has limits, that people

die young, fail at love,

fail of their ambitions. He runs beside

her, he thinks

of the sadness they have gasped and crooned

their way out of

coming, clutching each other with old, invented

forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready

to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely

companionable like the couples

on the summer beach

reading magazine articles about intimacy

between the sexes

to themselves, and to each other,

and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

 

—from Robert Hass’s Human Wishes, American Poetry Series, Harper Collins (1990)

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Larissa Szporluk

 

LADYBIRDS

 

Brilliance is a carcass
on a snow-white beach.

Envy never sleeps.
I tell my children truthfully:

a long red beard is breaking
from the darkness scale.

He’s chasing you because
you’re new. Because he’s old

and sees the town in dirty tones:
violet sheep and wine-dark

corn. He burns the evening
rainbow like a wartime bridge

until it’s charred and charlatans
topple out of robin eggs

and pox  your happy window
by capturing the ledge

and chattering like X-rays
that crash into your flesh.

 

—previously appeared on The Poetry Foundation

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Norman Dubie

 

TROMBONE

 

There were carols on the kitchen radio, a late
cold night, entering the room
while straightening the blistered Navajo rug, I
remembered suddenly what the first eight notes
of hark, the herald angels sing felt like
vibrating through my body that first time—
I was eleven and unprepared,
I remembered when I was ten
and fainting in church from the sweet ammonia of Easter lilies
hosing my nostrils with fragrance
and also the emptiness of it—the lord of the dance,
in an arc of agony, up on sticks. . .

 

—previously appeared with The Academy of American Poets

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Bill Rasmovicz

 

THE MOON’S HIND LEGS

 

The moon’s hind legs are invisible.
Its bastard ear-boring cry is only fully heard by infants.

Bright as the starchy pharmacist’s coat, its objective
is to illuminate the puddled glass replacing
someone’s stolen vehicle,

the tuft of fur in the barbed wire.
Some nights it shivers as though it held
a penny under its tongue.

If the eyes were windows at all they would
be fogged 300 days a year.

I understand and I don’t:
the past is such an indelible part of now,
that there is no such thing as the edge’s gleam
without the cut,

that if nothing else, we endure ourselves.

You love in excess or pine to be loved,
glisten in the rain like a freshly cut stump.
When I saw the tattoo of a hummingbird on

that girl’s lonely wrist, I was convinced the skeleton
of that animal would be the topographical account
of an ancient city.
That I would want to live there someday,
bereft, yes, but somehow filled.

To walk beneath it is to ascertain the world’s
slow attrition, to know
there is always a self further buried in the self.

Figure ice raking a river bank.
Figure a semi jackknifed on the highway, its cargo
of guinea hens leaking—scripture of the moon.

And this I remember:
wheeling food to the cancer ward’s incandescent hall,
patients wading through
its powdery, almost sublime surface;

the scientific odor smuggled via elevator
into the lobby.

That the idea of something so pure is synonymous
with its breaking.

That you could set fire to yourself and the chill
would never leave.

What any of us would suffer for a little affection
or money.

In its countenance the cemetery trees stand
so still, and still they seem to sway.

This morning, the students climbing onto the bus,
one after the next, their faces rained-out
beach vacations,
the garbage bags a street-side abacus

where a man was found after two nights
in the delirium of shallow woods behind his house,
unknown to himself
and white as the rescuer’s light.

 

—from Bill Rasmovicz’ Gross Ardor, 42 Miles Press (2013)

 

 

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