1. American Poetry

    Whatever it is, it must have
    A stomach that can digest
    Rubber, coal, uranium, moons, poems.

    Like the shark, it contains a shoe.
    It must swim for miles through the desert
    Uttering cries that are almost human.

    By Louis Simpson.

  2. Late Fragment

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    By Raymond Carver.

  3. Seven Poems

    For Antonia

    At the edge
    of the body’s night
    ten moons are rising.

    A scar remembers the wound.
    The wound remembers the pain.
    Once more you are crying.

    When we walk in the sun
    our shadows are like barges of silence.

    My body lies down
    and I hear my own
    voice lying next to me.

    The rock is pleasure
    and it opens
    and we enter it
    as we enter ourselves
    each night.

    When I talk to the window
    I say everything
    is everything

    I have a key
    so I open the door and walk in.
    It is dark and I walk in.
    It is darker and I walk in.

    By Mark Strand.

  4. Nights

    Drunk and weeping. It’s another night
    at the live-in opera, and I figure
    it’s going to turn out badly for me.
    The dead next door accept their salutations,
    their salted notes, the drawn-out wailing.
    It’s we the living who must run for cover,
    meaning me. Mortality’s the ABC of it,
    and after that comes lechery and lying.
    And, oh, how to piece together a life
    from this scandal and confusion, as if
    the gods were inhabiting us or cohabiting
    with us, just for the music’s sake.

    By Harvey Shapiro

  5. Tree Marriage

    In Chota Nagpur and Bengal
    the betrothed are tied with threads to
    mango trees, they marry the trees
    as well as one another, and
    the two trees marry each other.
    Could we do that some time with oaks
    or beeches? This gossamer we
    hold each other with, this web
    of love and habit is not enough.
    In mistrust of heavier ties,
    I would like tree-siblings for us,
    standing together somewhere, two
    trees married with us, lightly, their
    fingers barely touching in sleep,
    our threads invisible but holding.

    By William Meredith

  6. Friends Within the Darkness

    I can remember starving in a
    small room in a strange city
    shades pulled down, listening to
    classical music
    I was young I was so young it hurt like a knife
    because there was no alternative except to hide as long
    as possible—
    not in self-pity but with dismay at my limited chance:
    trying to connect.
    the old composers — Mozart, Bach, Beethoven,
    Brahms were the only ones who spoke to me and
    they were dead.
    finally, starved and beaten, I had to go into
    the streets to be interviewed for low-paying and
    by strange men behind desks
    men without eyes men without faces
    who would take away my hours
    break them
    piss on them.
    now I work for the editors the readers the
    but still hang around and drink with
    Mozart, Bach, Brahms and the
    some buddies
    some men
    sometimes all we need to be able to continue alone
    are the dead
    rattling the walls
    that close us in.

    By Charles Bukowski

  7. The Heart of a Woman

    The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
    As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
    Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
    In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

    The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
    And enters some alien cage in its plight,
    And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
    While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

    by Georgia Douglas Johnson

  8. Separation

    Driving out of town, I see him crossing
    the Brooks Pharmacy parking lot, and remember

    how he would drop to his knees in the kitchen
    and press his face to my dress, his cheek flat against

    my belly as if he were listening for something.
    Somebody might be waiting for coffee in the living room,

    someone might be setting the dining room table, he’d
    place his face under my dress and press his cheek

    against my belly and kneel there, without saying anything.
    How is it possible that I am allowed to see him

    like this—walking quickly by the glass windows?

    —what he wears in the world without me,
    his hands swinging by his side, his cock quiet

    in his jeans, his shirt covering
    his shoulders, his own tongue in his mouth.

    By Marie Howe

  9. The Wild Geese

    Horseback on Sunday morning,
    harvest over, we taste persimmon
    and wild grape, sharp sweet
    of summer’s end. In time’s maze
    over fall fields, we name names
    that went west from here, names
    that rest on graves. We open
    a persimmon seed to find the tree
    that stands in promise,
    pale, in the seed’s marrow.
    Geese appear high over us,
    pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
    as in love or sleep, holds
    them to their way, clear,
    in the ancient faith: what we need
    is here. And we pray, not
    for new earth or heaven, but to be
    quiet in heart, and in eye
    clear. What we need is here.

    By Wendell Berry

  10. Rereading Frost

    Sometimes I think all the best poems
    have been written already,
    and no one has time to read them,
    so why try to write more?

    At other times though,
    I remember how one flower
    in a meadow already full of flowers
    somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

    as you get to the top of a hill
    in Colorado, say, in high summer
    and just look down at all that brimming color.
    I also try to convince myself

    that the smallest note of the smallest
    instrument in the band,
    the triangle for instance,
    is important to the conductor

    who stands there, pointing his finger
    in the direction of the percussions,
    demanding that one silvery ping.
    And I decide not to stop trying,

    at least not for a while, though in truth
    I’d rather just sit here reading
    how someone else has been acquainted
    with the night already, and perfectly.

    By Linda Pastan