“American Airlines Sutra” — Ishmael Reed

“American Airlines Sutra”

by

Ishmael Reed


put yr cup on my tray
the stewardess said 40,000
feet up. (well i’ve
never done it that way. what
have i got to lose.)

i climb into a cab & the
woman driver is singing
along with Frank Sinatra
“how was your flight coming in?”

(another one. these americans,
only one thing on their
minds).

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The Soul of Wine — Carlos Schwabe

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The Soul of Wine, 1900 by Carlos Schwabe (1866–1926)

Illustration for Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire.

“The Soul of Wine”

by

Charles Baudelaire

English translation by

William Aggeler


One night, the soul of wine was singing in the flask:
“O man, dear disinherited! to you I sing
This song full of light and of brotherhood
From my prison of glass with its scarlet wax seals.

I know the cost in pain, in sweat,
And in burning sunlight on the blazing hillside,
Of creating my life, of giving me a soul:
I shall not be ungrateful or malevolent,

For I feel a boundless joy when I flow
Down the throat of a man worn out by his labor;
His warm breast is a pleasant tomb
Where I’m much happier than in my cold cellar.

Do you hear the choruses resounding on Sunday
And the hopes that warble in my fluttering breast?
With sleeves rolled up, elbows on the table,
You will glorify me and be content;

I shall light up the eyes of your enraptured wife,
And give back to your son his strength and his color;
I shall be for that frail athlete of life
The oil that hardens a wrestler’s muscles.

Vegetal ambrosia, precious grain scattered
By the eternal Sower, I shall descend in you
So that from our love there will be born poetry,
Which will spring up toward God like a rare flower!”

 

“What Kind of Times Are These” — Adrienne Rich

“What Kind of Times Are These”

by

Adrienne Rich


There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

who disappeared into those shadows.

 

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled

this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

its own ways of making people disappear.

 

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

meeting the unmarked strip of light—

ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

 

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

to have you listen at all, it’s necessary

to talk about trees.

“Points of View” — Ishmael Reed

“Points of View”

by

Ishmael Reed


The  pioneers and the indians
disagree about a lot of things
for example, the pioneer says that
when you meet a bear in the woods
you should yell at him and if that
doesn’t work, you should fell him
The indians say that you should
whisper to him softly and call him by
loving nicknames
No one’s bothered to ask the bear
what he thinks

We must not say so

“A Lamp” — Tom Clark

tom clark

“Spring” — William Carlos Williams

“For the Anniversary of My Death” — W.S. Merwin

“For the Anniversary of My Death”

by

W.S. Merwin


Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

“The Fish” — Elizabeth Bishop

“The Fish”

by

Elizabeth Bishop


I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

“Litany” — Langston Hughes

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“Fire Spirit” — William Carlos Williams

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“Civilization — spurns — the Leopard!” — Emily Dickinson

leopard

“I Felt Sick” — Tom Clark

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“One day is there of the series / Termed Thanksgiving day” — Emily Dickinson

ED

“Cy est Pourtraicte, Madame Ste Ursule, et les Unze Mille Vierges” — Wallace Stevens

“Cy est Pourtraicte, Madame Ste Ursule, et les Unze Mille Vierges”

by

Wallace Stevens

from Harmonium (1923)


Ursula, in a garden, found
A bed of radishes.
She kneeled upon the ground
And gathered them,
With flowers around,
Blue, gold, pink, and green.

She dressed in red and gold brocade
And in the grass an offering made
Of radishes and flowers.

She said, “My dear,
Upon your altars,
I have placed
The marguerite and coquelicot,
And roses
Frail as April snow;
But here,” she said,
“Where none can see,
I make an offering, in the grass,
Of radishes and flowers.”
And then she wept
For fear the Lord would not accept.
The good Lord in His garden sought
New leaf and shadowy tinct,
And they were all His thought.
He heard her low accord,
Half prayer and half ditty,
And He felt a subtle quiver,
That was not heavenly love,
Or pity.

This is not writ
In any book.

“In Defense of Mechanisms” — Colin James

“In Defense of Mechanisms”

by

Colin James

                    Pursued, I ran on the litter strewn beach.
                    Dogs howled, glancing back was not productive.
                    Among the less than pristine dunes
                    were painted signs conceived in a hurry,
                    DR. MOREAU NO LONGER PRACTICES HERE!
                    I stumbled, my thighs inconsolably stressed.
                    To pause was not entirely temporary.
                    I heard my own scream not express optimism,

                    that one obtuse voice as close as is to breathing.

“Trees” — William Carlos Williams