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A Poem a Day for April...

D. Allan

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The Orchid Flower

by Sam Hamill

Just as I wonder

whether it's going to die,

the orchid blossoms

and I can't explain why it

moves my heart, why such pleasure

comes from one small bud

on a long spindly stem, one

blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,

tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white-

haired craggy poet, it's

purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,

dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.

Erotic because there's death

at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise

prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery

in washing evening dishes

or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful

because one of us will die.



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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In the Waiting Room

by Elizabeth Bishop

In Worcester, Massachusetts,

I went with Aunt Consuelo

to keep her dentist's appointment

and sat and waited for her

in the dentist's waiting room.

It was winter. It got dark

early. The waiting room

was full of grown-up people,

arctics and overcoats,

lamps and magazines.

My aunt was inside

what seemed like a long time

and while I waited I read

the National Geographic

(I could read) and carefully

studied the photographs:

the inside of a volcano,

black, and full of ashes;

then it was spilling over

in rivulets of fire.

Osa and Martin Johnson

dressed in riding breeches,

laced boots, and pith helmets.

A dead man slung on a pole

--"Long Pig," the caption said.

Babies with pointed heads

wound round and round with string;

black, naked women with necks

wound round and round with wire

like the necks of light bulbs.

Their breasts were horrifying.

I read it right straight through.

I was too shy to stop.

And then I looked at the cover:

the yellow margins, the date.

Suddenly, from inside,

came an oh! of pain

--Aunt Consuelo's voice--

not very loud or long.

I wasn't at all surprised;

even then I knew she was

a foolish, timid woman.

I might have been embarrassed,

but wasn't. What took me

completely by surprise

was that it was me:

my voice, in my mouth.

Without thinking at all

I was my foolish aunt,

I--we--were falling, falling,

our eyes glued to the cover

of the National Geographic,

February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days

and you'll be seven years old.

I was saying it to stop

the sensation of falling off

the round, turning world.

into cold, blue-black space.

But I felt: you are an I,

you are an Elizabeth,

you are one of them.

Why should you be one, too?

I scarcely dared to look

to see what it was I was.

I gave a sidelong glance

--I couldn't look any higher--

at shadowy gray knees,

trousers and skirts and boots

and different pairs of hands

lying under the lamps.

I knew that nothing stranger

had ever happened, that nothing

stranger could ever happen.

Why should I be my aunt,

or me, or anyone?

What similarities--

boots, hands, the family voice

I felt in my throat, or even

the National Geographic

and those awful hanging breasts--

held us all together

or made us all just one?

How--I didn't know any

word for it--how "unlikely". . .

How had I come to be here,

like them, and overhear

a cry of pain that could have

got loud and worse but hadn't?

The waiting room was bright

and too hot. It was sliding

beneath a big black wave,

another, and another.

Then I was back in it.

The War was on. Outside,

in Worcester, Massachusetts,

were night and slush and cold,

and it was still the fifth

of February, 1918.



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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My Mother Would Be a Falconress

by Robert Duncan

My mother would be a falconress,

And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,

would fly to bring back

from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,

where I dream in my little hood with many bells

jangling when I'd turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress,

and she sends me as far as her will goes.

She lets me ride to the end of her curb

where I fall back in anguish.

I dread that she will cast me away,

for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.

She would bring down the little birds.

And I would bring down the little birds.

When will she let me bring down the little birds,

pierced from their flight with their necks broken,

their heads like flowers limp from the stem?

I tread my mother's wrist and would draw blood.

Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.

I have gone back into my hooded silence,

talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.

For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me,

sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.

She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist.

She uses a barb that brings me to cower.

She sends me abroad to try my wings

and I come back to her. I would bring down

the little birds to her

I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.

I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood,

and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying.

She draws a limit to my flight.

Never beyond my sight, she says.

She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.

She rewards me with meat for my dinner.

But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.

Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me,

always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,

at her wrist, and her riding

to the great falcon hunt, and me

flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart

to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet,

straining, and then released for the flight.

My mother would be a falconress,

and I her gerfalcon raised at her will,

from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own

pride, as if her pride

knew no limits, as if her mind

sought in me flight beyond the horizon.

Ah, but high, high in the air I flew.

And far, far beyond the curb of her will,

were the blue hills where the falcons nest.

And then I saw west to the dying sun--

it seemd my human soul went down in flames.

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,

until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,

far, far beyond the curb of her will

to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where

the falcons nest

I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.

I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,

sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,

striking out from the blood to be free of her.

My mother would be a falconress,

and even now, years after this,

when the wounds I left her had surely heald,

and the woman is dead,

her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart

were broken, it is stilld

I would be a falcon and go free.

I tread her wrist and wear the hood,

talking to myself, and would draw blood.



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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The Alien

by Greg Delanty

I'm back again scrutinizing the Milky Way

of your ultrasound, scanning the dark

matter, the nothingness, that now the heads say

is chockablock with quarks & squarks,

gravitons & gravitini, photons & photinos. Our sprout,

who art there inside the spacecraft

of your Ma, the time capsule of this printout,

hurling & whirling towards us, it's all daft

on this earth. Our alien who art in the heavens,

our Martian, our little green man, we're anxious

to make contact, to ask divers questions

about the heavendom you hail from, to discuss

the whole shebang of the beginning&end,

the pre–big bang untime before you forget the why

and lie of thy first place. And, our friend,

to say Welcome, that we mean no harm, we'd die

for you even, that we pray you’re not here

to subdue us, that we’d put away

our ray guns, missiles, attitude and share

our world with you, little big head, if only you stay.



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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The Plaid Dress

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Strong sun, that bleach

The curtains of my room, can you not render

Colourless this dress I wear?—

This violent plaid

Of purple angers and red shames; the yellow stripe

Of thin but valid treacheries; the flashy green of kind deeds done

Through indolence high judgments given here in haste;

The recurring checker of the serious breach of taste?

No more uncoloured than unmade,

I fear, can be this garment that I may not doff;

Confession does not strip it off,

To send me homeward eased and bare;

All through the formal, unoffending evening, under the clean

Bright hair,

Lining the subtle gown. . .it is not seen,

But it is there.



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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The White Fires of Venus

by Denis Johnson

We mourn this senseless planet of regret,

droughts, rust, rain, cadavers

that can't tell us, but I promise

you one day the white fires

of Venus shall rage: the dead,

feeling that power, shall be lifted, and each

of us will have his resurrected one to tell him,

"Greetings. You will recover

or die. The simple cure

for everything is to destroy

all the stethoscopes that will transmit

silence occasionally. The remedy for loneliness

is in learning to admit

solitude as one admits

the bayonet: gracefully,

now that already

it pierces the heart.

Living one: you move among many

dancers and don't know which

you are the shadow of;

you want to kiss your own face in the mirror

but do not approach,

knowing you must not touch one

like that. Living

one, while Venus flares

O set the cereal afire,

O the refrigerator harboring things

that live on into death unchanged."

They know all about us on Andromeda,

they peek at us, they see us

in this world illumined and pasteled

phonily like a bus station,

they are with us when the streets fall down fraught

with laundromats and each of us

closes himself in his small

San Francisco without recourse.

They see you with your face of fingerprints

carrying your instructions in gloved hands

trying to touch things, and know you

for one despairing, trying to touch the curtains,

trying to get your reflection mired in alarm tape

past the window of this then that dark

closed business establishment.

The Andromedans hear your voice like distant amusement park music

converged on by ambulance sirens

and they understand everything.

They're on your side. They forgive you.

I want to turn for a moment to those my heart loves,

who are as diamonds to the Andromedans,

who shimmer for them, lovely and useless, like diamonds:

namely, those who take their meals at soda fountains,

their expressions lodged among the drugs

and sunglasses, each gazing down too long

into the coffee as though from a ruined balcony.

O Andromedans they don't know what to do

with themselves and so they sit there

until they go home where they lie down

until they get up, and you beyond the light years know

that if sleeping is dying, then waking

is birth, and a life

is many lives. I love them because they know how

to manipulate change

in the pockets musically, these whose faces the seasons

never give a kiss, these

who are always courteous to the faces

of presumptions, the presuming streets,

the hotels, the presumption of rain in the streets.

I'm telling you it's cold inside the body that is not the body,

lonesome behind the face

that is certainly not the face

of the person one meant to become



O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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