Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vernal Solo

by Sarah Bailey

The trees,
like dancing eyed girls,
have dressed themselves
in white and pink.

In the lawn
a seedling forest grows --
maple samara spun and sprouted.
A runner of green expectation 
blankets the sidewalk.

Once again, I
wield a broom
sweeping seeds from the
barren cement.

some will stick to my shoe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My hands still smell like soil

by Erin Tuttle

My hands still smell like soil
             only because today,
I planted Swiss chard
and beets
and others in the spinach family.

I scattered composites:

And I learned that longday onions
(family:  Amaryllis)
grow in cooler climates, so
if you want a Vidalia, better settle
for a Walla Walla.

Then there's Brassicaceae,
kohlrabi and kale and
Chinese cabbage.
But you wouldn't know

because you only helped me the first season,
          (back when I knew nothing)
when the landlord wouldn't let us dig, so
we gathered buckets and dresser drawers from the alleys,
filled them with soil and seeds.

The neighbor woman watched us from her window and wrote poems
because she wanted to fall in love
like us, with earth lines on her knuckles, and rain
warm and misty,
setting seeds to bed better than any fancy hose-head.

But what I had to learn (and this was harder

than remembering that tomatoes
are a member of the nightshade family, or
that a potato is a stem, or that a pumpkin handle
is called a peduncle)

            what I had to learn
was that healing hides in years
of filing the pea packets in the folder marked Fabeaceae,
and in February afternoons spent bent over 
trays of earth, breathing peat 'til I sneeze, 
feeling lonely and complete all at once.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

High Flight

by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee
No 412 Squadron RCAF
killed 11 December 1941

Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.  Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And while, with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Lanyard

by Billy Collins

found here:

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send me into the past more suddenly--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips 
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim, 
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I repliked,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones, and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now
is a smaller gift--not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ode on Dictionaries

by Barbara Hambly

A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page
     one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk,
    one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock
clerk of cliches that she is, at the moment going ape
    the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon
    of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito
    of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag,
    tastier than any oyster and champagne fueled fugue
gastronomique you have been pursuing in France
    for the past four months.  This 82-year-old's rants
have taken their place with the dictionary I bought
    in the fourth grade, with so many gorgeous words I thought
I'd never plumb its depths.  Right the first time, little girl,
    yet here I am still at it, trolling for pearls,
Japanese words vying with Bantu in a goulash
    I eat daily, sometimes gagging, sometimes with relish,
kleptomaniac in the candy store of language,
    slipping words in my pockets like a non-smudge
lipstick that smears with the first kiss.  I'm the demented
    lady with sixteen cats.  Sure, the house stinks, but those damned 
mice have skedaddled, though I kind of miss them, their cute
    little faces, the whiskers, those adorable gray suits.
No, all beasts are welcome in my menagerie, ark
    of inconsolable barks and meows, sharp-toothed shark,
OED of the deep ocean, sweet compendium
    of candy bars--Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms--
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle
    of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle,
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory.  I'm building 
    my own book as a mason makes a wall or a gelding
runs round the track--brick by brick, step by step, word by word,
    jonquil by gerrymander, syllabub by greensward
swordplay by snapdragon, a never-ending parade
    with clowns and funambulists in my own mouth, homemade
treasure chest of tongue and teeth, the brain's roustabout, rough
    unfurler of tents and trapezes, off-the-cuff
unruly troublemaker in the high church museum
    of the world.  O mouth--boondoggle, auditorium,
viper, gulag, gumbo pot on a steamy August
    afternoon--what have you not given me?  How I must
wear on you, my Samuel Johnson in a frock coat,
    lexicographer of silly thoughts, billy goat,
X-rated pornographic smut factory, scarfer
    of snacks, prissy smirker, late-night barfly,
you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world
    or don't as the case may be.  O chittering squirrel,
ziplock sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words
    into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle

by John Updike

The celebrated windows flamed with light
directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place.  Then violins
vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye
saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes
of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held
the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed
until our beating hearts, our violins
were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.