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Tag: reading poems

Poem of the Day: Ada Limón

 

Help me turn my mind off. Help me be more than a song. The stress like a crow’s open flame. Help me to not give up on forgiveness. The work has become too wild here. Help me. Help me—
(Days like today, poetry reminds me to live.)

 

INSTRUCTIONS ON NOT GIVING UP

 

1976

 

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

 

—appeared previously with Poets.Org

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Julie Bruck

 

                —after Philip Larkin

 

TO BRING THE HORSE HOME

 

Is all I’ve wanted past wanting
since I was six and delirious with fever,
an infinitive forged from a night
when giant ladybugs with toothpick
antennae patrolled my wicker nightstand.
Yes, I’ve been with horses since,
travelled illegally with them in trailers,
known certain landscapes only framed
by alert ears, and with one in particular,
spent whole afternoons with her big jaw
heavy on my shoulder. Still, I hatched
plots to bring a horse to the house, to ride
to school, to pasture one or even three
in the garden, shaded by that decorative
willow, which could have used a purpose.
But there were city bylaws in two languages,
and over the years, a dog, stray cats,
turtles, and many fish. They lived, they died.
It wasn’t the same. Fast-forward, I brought
the baby home in a molded bucket seat, but she
lacked difference, attuned as I was, checking
her twenty-four-seven. Now that she’s
grown, I’m reduced to walking city parks
with this corrosive envy of mounted police,
though I’m too old for the ropes test,
wouldn’t know what to do with a gun.
If there’s a second act, let me live
like the racetrack rat in a small room
up the narrow stairs from the stalls,
the horse shifting comfortably below,
browsing and chewing sweet hay.
A single bed with blanket the color
of factory-sweepings will suffice,
each day shaped to the same arc,
because days can only end when
the lock slides free on the stall’s
Dutch door, and I lead the horse in,
then muscle the corroded bolt shut.
That’s what days are for: I cannot rest
until the horse comes home.

 

—appeared previously with the Academy of American Poets

 

 

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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: Lisa Nanette Allender

 

L.V. WOMEN

 

The Women wear their hair
like a blonde ballet
trained to perform
each golden strand
sun-bleached and
chemical-precision,
in perfect position.

The women wear their skin
unnaturally tight
dry and porous
like the concrete surrounds,
pneumatic-pillow breasts
under their gowns.

The women wear their men
on their arms
never hand-in-hand,
old enough to be their fathers

The men
whose tanned, wrinkled hands
perch like brown birds
on the mechanical devices,
hungry,
they scavenge
seek sustenance
in this bright space
painted sky
clouds like candy
hung too low
the birds scatter
over tables,
over currency.
Some of it:
cash
some of it:
women,
skirted in anonymity
eyes uplifted
in a dark beg,
a not-too-solemn promise
to behave
like their blond strands
to be a medal
for the men
who leave this,
the casino,
otherwise
empty-handed.

 

—previously appeared on Goodgoshalmighty and Lisa Nanette Allender’s website.

 

 

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Poem of the Day: Michalle Gould

 

WHEN I WAS NAKED

 

I was the sturdy bowl of plums half-buried in snow
outside the artist’s studio. He paints the shades of purple
reflected in condensed water on my skin.

I was the snowy hill topped by a nun’s black habit,
a fall of dark hair descending to wintry shoulders,
an infinite stretch of icy skin.

My body was a mystery. The anatomist
touched his scalpel to the edge of my jaw,
opened his sketchpad and drew back my skin.

The courtesan in Osaka tried something new, trimmed away leaves,
stem, floated me—denuded lily—in a stone bowl full of milk.
A day later, the bowl was scattered petals on a blue-white skin.

A vine is a humble creeping thing, but clustered in boastful fruit.
We called to the artist, “I am emerald! I am amethyst!”
until some wild animal left us naked, eating only our skin.

In a cemetery, a mole tunneled back and forth between the graves,
extended blind fingers, knew before any scientist,
the last to go is hair. The first is skin.

 

—from Michalle Gould’s Resurrection Party, Silver Birch Press (2014)

 

 

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Reading Tracey Knapp

 

TO THE NEW MOON

 

Come night. Come
sirens and midnight babies
born in the backseats
of taxicabs. Come moon.

You crazy weeping
alcoholic, quit drinking
yourself into nothingness.
Someone’s trumpet
has gone missing tonight.

Someone is looking
for you, holding your
hairbrush to the nose
of a bloodhound.

Leave your shadow
on the door mat
and come inside. I’ll cook
you up something good,
a grilled cheese sandwich
to go with that frown.

It’s just us girls
tonight. Let’s spray paint
the stairwell, burn
phonebooks in the bathtub.

Even though you’re telling me
you’re done, it’s over, I’ve still hung
my clothes out to dry overnight
in the ocean wind, and that tide

is all your work. You may
have been the first,
but you’re not the only one
to circle your grief, to slowly
darken because of it.

I know that it’s hard to show
your face in the face
of the sun and his narcissism,
the earth’s pushy shadow,
but I’ve seen you in the daylight,
edging into the sky
early for a while, urging

the herons to stab at fish,
the street cars to lurch
up and over the long hill
before they rattle on down towards the bay.

Moon, it’s two in the morning
and it’s time to stop hiding:
the French Alps are talking
about your new glow,
how you actually look younger,
and all the dogs adore you.

 

ANOTHER REPORT

 

Sometimes I think I’m better off
keeping my mouth shut. Other times
I open up and hope something good

falls in—a sleeping pill, a flower petal
soft as the wing of a moth. I hope for
a moth to fly in through the crack in the glass.

For the glass to uncrack, unrest to surrender.
It’s too late to revive the sheep. I mean to say
I’ve barely slept all week, still thinking

about the fur shell of a dead squirrel
full of maggots I found in the backyard.
I had to hold the thing,

lift it with a rake and wrap it
in a shopping bag. I threw it in the dumpster,
the body light and warm with stench.

Something parasitic remains in you
when you handle certain matters.
It makes you want to remove

what lingers and put it in the ground.
I gave the rake to the neighbors,
and avoided the backyard, even after

winter, when the crows crowded the trees and cried.
I closed for business. I gave up
whatever I had that felt like it was dying on me—

an old cactus in a teacup, my dumb guitar,
the facial expressions for thanks and I don’t think so.
I left a friend that year.

I stopped calling my mother
because who needs the same bad advice
you’d already give to yourself?

Once she told me to write it all down
and look where that has gotten me.

 

NOT REALLY

 

Another kitten collage
at the vet—how cute.
I flirt with the technician.
My dog hides under
the metal table.
I don’t blame him.

No one wants a thermometer
up their butt, even if it means
feeling better later. I’m not feeling
any better about the sparrow
my dog ate or all those clothes
in my closet covered in fur.

You would think
that a closet is a great place
to hide, but after a few hours
it feels like you’re shrinking.

You would think
someone would notice. No one
knocked down the door
after three days straight
of sitting in bed eating nachos.

I’ve had enough contact
for one week, enough nachos
for a lifetime. My dog is enough.

Enough lives in my life, so exhausting.

All my life, I’m either showing up
or shying away. Shaking hands
or taking off. Every day,
my dog drags me around the lake,
investigates the bushes as if something
has happened there. Could be
a bagel or a dead bird.

Could be something that should
be found, a pigeon feather
or a razor blade.

Both glimmer in the glance
of the sun. You can’t hide
from that kind of witness.

 

*

 

all from Tracey Knapp’s Mouth, 42 Miles Press, 2015

 

 

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“Look Where That Has Gotten Me”: The Potential Self-Awareness & Honesty of Poetry: Reading Tracey Knapp’s Mouth

 

Tracey Knapp_MouthLet me begin by playing a round of Two Truths and a Lie… We all know how this works, right? The speaker shares two truths about themselves, and a lie, but the lie must not be easily distinguished from the two truths, and the other players are supposed to guess which statement is a lie. So, here it goes: As a reader, I most often seek and yearn for poetry that is self-aware, but does not apologize. I want poetry that, to utilize a cliché, is honest to a fault. And I want poetry that physically makes me hurt: makes me cringe, makes me pause, makes me close the book for a hot second, makes my (again, cliché) chest hurt—we’ve all read those poems, right? But now here’s the trick: these are all true. Again, they are all true. This combination of elements in one poem, or one cumulative collection, is one I yearn for as a reader, and as a poet, but which I do not often see done, or done well. Tracey Knapp, in her debut collection, Mouth, performs these tasks beautifully. These poems are capable of being self-aware but unapologetic and far from self-important; they are honest, and overly, brutally honest at that; and they pull me out of my corner and face me with my own concerns, with my own hurts. And these poems are capable of doing this over and over, no matter how many times I read them.

Undeniably what lures me so steeply into this poetry is Knapp’s unapologetic self-awareness and bluntness. Her persona is extremely realistic, logical, and unlike so many personas that point out their own faults or shortcomings, unapologetic.

 

Continue reading my review of Mouth on The Rumpus . . .

 

TRACEY KNAPP works in graphic design and communications in San Francisco. She received graduate degrees in creative writing and English from Boston University and Ohio University, where she taught literature, composition and creative writing. She has received scholarships from The Tin House Writers’ Workshop and The Dorothy Rosenberg Poetry Fund. Mouth is her first full-length collection.

 

 

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Reading Allan Peterson

 

CONTINENTAL

 

We were sinking

The windows were filling with cities

as if poured into glasses

No one was thinking of drowning

No one thinking air ship

but there we were submerging

A captain turned off the cabin lights

We folded our tables    headed down quietly

The moon holding its breath floated up

 

KNOWLEDGE FIRST

 

We call it knowledge first to be nice, then superstition

if it’s theirs, then demonic if it means contradiction.

Remember the Tree of it, how dangerous, how nothing stays

in its place once you know feathers drop symmetrically

so the skimmer doesn’t fly in a circle. The very idea

of its place is the forcing of facts into a philosophy

someone is paying to maintain. The moment the sugar

crystals surrender to syrup out of sheer curiosity

they start to rebuild again drying to a small city on the knife.

Lilacs are massaged along the fence by windy hands.

You can see them give and moan from their fingers.

This is what they told us we’d die from, wasn’t it

—love, teeth first in the pinnate leaves, then the hickory

chewing on its lip lies to us again. How after dying it recants.

 

FEELING LIKE THE AFRICAN

 

Where I am, with me is

Frances to whom my muscles are attached,

dogs that perk with a whistle,

catching urgency from whatever state I call.

Even the strangest will do the same:

And what has flown low below me, stingrays,

loons, hooded mergansers

the almost frozen wolf eel ribboned in the depths,

whose beauty is my god’s

revenge on austerity, whose cloudy wrist tells time,

white as a moonstone.

But I have no god.   It is just me feeling like the African

figure full of nails

that says the future is likely all rust and worms, muscular,

attentive, but with extra dogs.

 

*

 

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

 

 

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Reading David Dodd Lee

 

THE WHITE SEA

 

Spin the big wheel of weather. So it’s seven
degrees. I could have sworn it was balmy and getting ready

        to storm
eight minutes ago. One definition of a slob is someone

who runs out to the street through a foot of snow in slippers
and a t-shirt to get the mail. And falls down. I close my eyes to

        the weather
and see black lemons floating on white water.

 

ESTRANGEMENT

 

The deer’s face points downriver, marble-still, cold
eye into the wind, staring into the flashlight. Engine’s shut off,

        snow on
the high banks. I slice her open on-site, organs spilling

into the water. Do the falling parts know that she’s gone yet?
And the animal with its great black floor takes passage. She doesn’t

        need to
worry anymore. The creek’s stars quiver and absorb her. I light

my last cigarette. Barter trumps money in these woods.
Now her neck muscles are flowing out into the falling snow,

        hooves streaming
up into the gray machine… The eyes are deep set, polished already.

I’m still in awe. Later, I remove the head. She smells of wet rocks
and trees. I light a joint, rub the burn scars on my arm, remove

        the wire
frame for the gray fox, place the doe’s head on the fleshing table.

I boil water. The body drains in the carport. I don’t fear being away
from them anymore. It’s quiet and the phone never rings.

 

THE LESSON

 

The joy cannot continue,
cannot extinguish the fire in

        the bathtub,
the sirens roving from room to room

in the small house just down the hill
from the seven large houses, candles in

        every open
doorway. This is how you see in the dark, he says,

and he takes her hand in his hand, her hand
holding a yellow pencil, and he crosses words out.

 

FROM HAND TO MOUTH

 

I can’t see you.
Semblance. I mean
The rain. The black

Rain. It’s night you
Know, fingernails. Dragged.
And bitten off.

 

SAD FLOWERS

 

They’re back-shot, black blood; we get the noon re-
port. It’s divided into pieces—they aren’t out there. They

        curve over
the wires. Hello, death in Africa, to me in my underwear.

Here’s a blueprint of my pocket. When my face was wrapped
in muslin I could feel the dying animals, the places where they

        left salt
in my brain. Child, camel, things burned: what memories of

these will I bring with me out of the grave? Everyone has to
deal with lint. I pick the stuff off my aloe plant, it flows up

        out of
the baby’s mouth and she’s laughing like a dead jazz singer.

 

*

 

all from David Dodd Lee’s Animalities (Four Way Books, 2014)

 

 

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