“A Poem to Read in August” — Gilbert Sorrentino

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“August” — Mary Oliver

“August”

by

Mary Oliver


Our neighbor, tall and blonde and vigorous, the mother
of many children, is sick. We did not know she was sick,
but she has come to the fence, walking like a woman
who is balancing a sword inside of her body, and besides
that her long hair is gone, it is short and, suddenly, gray.
I don’t recognize her. It even occurs to me that it might
be her mother. But it’s her own laughter-edged voice,
we have heard it for years over the hedges.

All summer the children, grown now and some of them
with children of their own, come to visit. They swim,
they go for long walks at the harbor, they make
dinner for twelve, for fifteen, for twenty. In the early
morning two daughters come to the garden and slowly
go through the precise and silent gestures of T’ai Chi.

They all smile. Their father smiles too, and builds
castles on the shore with the children, and drives back to
the city, and drives back to the country. A carpenter is
hired—a roof repaired, a porch rebuilt. Everything that
can be fixed.

June, July, August. Every day, we hear their laughter. I
think of the painting by van Gogh, the man in the chair.
Everything wrong, and nowhere to go. His hands over
his eyes.


 

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“Epitaph” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

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“Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving” — Clarence Major

“Photograph of a Gathering of People Waving”

by

Clarence Major


based on an old photograph bought in a
shop at Half Moon Bay, summer, 1999

No sound, the whole thing.
Unknown folk. People waving from a hillside of ripple grass
to people below in an ongoing meadow.

Side rows of trees waving in a tide of wind,
and because what is moving is not moving,
you catch a state of stasis.

Opposite of this inactivity
you imagine distant music and buzzing and crickets
and that special hot smell of summer.

To the garden past the Bay to the meadow,
cliff sheltered with low clouds, offset by nodding thistle.
Tatter-wort and Stinking Tommy along footpath
worn down by locals. But who and why?

In the photograph itself you’re now looking the other way
to unknown clusters of houses.
Where forces are balanced to near perfection.

Who could live
in such a great swollen silence and solitude?
You hear church bells
from Our Lady’s Tears breaking that silence nicely
but just in the right way so silence continues
as though nothing else matters day after day.

And anyway, each face seems so familiar.

What do you do when you wave back?
You wave vigorously.
You remember your own meadow,
your cliffside and town,
photographs forgotten,
the halfhearted motion of your hand,
your grandmother’s church-folk
gathering on a Sunday afternoon in saintly quietness.

You name the people
whose names are not written on the back.
You forgive them for wrapping themselves in silence.

You enter house after house and open top-floor windows
and you wave down to future generations like this.

much/little (Emily Dickinson)

In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is within our power

Emily Dickinson (poem 1287)

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“July 4th” — May Swenson

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Claudia Rankine reading from Citizen

The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling | Claudia Rankine

From Citizen by Claudine Rankine


 

/

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.

/

 


More…

“I am, outside. Incredible panic rules.” (Dream Song 46) — John Berryman

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“The Painting after Lunch” — Clarence Major

“The Painting after Lunch”

by

Clarence Major


It wasn’t working. Didn’t look back. Needed something else. So
I went out. After lunch I saw it in a different light, like a thing
emerging from behind a fever bush, something reaching the
senses with the smell of seaweed boiling, and as visible as yellow
snowdrops on black earth. Tasted it too, on the tongue Jamaica
pepper. To the touch, a velvet flower. Dragging and scumming, I
gave myself to it stroke after stroke. It kept coming in bits and fits,
fragments and snags. I even heard it singing but in the wrong key
like a deranged bird in wild cherries, having the time of its life.

“If My Enemy Is a Clown, a Natural Born Clown” — Ishmael Reed

“If My Enemy Is a Clown, a Natural Born Clown”

by

Ishmael Reed

i tore down my thoughts
roped in my nightmares
remembered a thousand curses
made blasphemous vows to demons
choked on the blood of hosts
    ate my hat
threw fits in the street
got up bitchy each day
told off the mailman
lost many friends
left parties in a huff
dry fucked a dozen juke boxes
made anarchist speeches in brad
the falcon’s 55 (but was never
thrown out)
drank 10 martinis a minute
until 1 day the book was finished

my unspeakable terror between the
covers, on you i said to the
enemies of the souls

well lorca, pushkin i tried
but in this place they assassinate
you with pussy or pats on
the back, lemon chiffon between
the cheeks or 2 weeks on a mile
long beach.

i have been the only negro
on the plane 10 times this year
and its only the 2nd month

i am removing my blindfold and
leaving the dock. the judge
giggles constantly and the prosecutor
invited me to dinner

no forwarding address please

i called it pin the tail on the devil
they called it avant garde
they just can’t be serious
these big turkeys

“Medusa at Her Vanity” — Tom Disch

“Sather Tower Mystery” — Ishmael Reed

“Sather Tower Mystery”

by

Ishmael Reed


Seems there was this Professor
a member of what should be called
The Good German Department

Must have signed his name to
5,000 petitions in front of
the Co-Op on Cedar
and bought two tons of benefit
cookies
Blames Texas for the sorry
state of the oceans
Rode a Greyhound bus “Civil
Rights,” Alabama, 1960
Found the long yellow war
“deplorable”
Believes John “Duke” Wayne’s
values to be inferior to his

He said, “Ishmael, I’d
love to do the right thing
for as you know I’m all for
the right thing and against
the wrong thing, but
these plaster of paris busts
of deceased Europeans
Our secret ways
Our sacred fears
“These books, leather-bound ‘copyright 1789’
All of these things, precious
to me, gleaming like the
stainless steel coffee urn in
the faculty club, an original
Maybeck, 1902

“I’d stand up for Camelot
by golly, even if it meant
shooting all the infidels in
the world,” he said
reaching into his desk drawer

“Why, I might even have to
shoot you, Ishmael”

Staring down the cold
tunnel of a hard .38
I thought

Most people are to the right
when it comes to where they must
eat and lay their heads!

“May” — Tom Disch

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“Humoresque” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

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“Short Talk on Vicuñas” — Anne Carson

“Short Talk on Vicuñas”

by

Anne Carson


A mythical animal, the vicuña fares well
in the volcanic regions of northern Peru.
Light thunders down on it, like Milton
at his daughters. Hear that?—they
are counting under their breath.
Think about style of life for a
moment. When you take up your
axe, listen. Hoofbeats. Wind.
It is they who make us at home
here, not the other way around.


More short talks by Anne Carson at BOMB.

“Enough! enough! enough!” — Walt Whitman

Section 38 of Song of Myself

by

Walt Whitman


Enough! enough! enough!
Somehow I have been stunn’d. Stand back!
Give me a little time beyond my cuff’d head, slumbers, dreams, gaping,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.

That I could forget the mockers and insults!
That I could forget the trickling tears and the blows of the bludgeons and hammers!
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion and bloody crowning.

I remember now,
I resume the overstaid fraction,
The grave of rock multiplies what has been confided to it, or to any graves,
Corpses rise, gashes heal, fastenings roll from me.

I troop forth replenish’d with supreme power, one of an average unending procession,
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines,
Our swift ordinances on their way over the whole earth,
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.

Eleves, I salute you! come forward!
Continue your annotations, continue your questionings.