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Unread 02-07-2019, 09:34 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,346
Default What is the best poem you've read lately?

What poem got inside you lately?

Here’s one I read this morning. (Thanks again to Cally Conan-Davies for shinning a light on his work.)


Cause of Death: Fox News*

Toward the end he sat on the back porch,
sweeping his binoculars back and forth
over the dry scrub-brush and arroyos,

certain he saw Mexicans
moving through the creosote and sage
while the TV commentators in the living room,

turned up loud enough for a deaf person to hear,
kept pouring gasoline on his anxiety and rage.

In the end he preferred to think about illegal aliens,
about welfare moms and healthcare socialists,
than about the uncomfortable sensation of the disease

crawling through his tunnels in the night,
crossing the river between his liver and his spleen.
It was just his luck

to be born in the historical period
that would eventually be known
as the twilight of the white male dinosaur,

feeling weaker and more swollen every day,
with the earth gradually looking more like hell
and a strange smell rising from the kitchen sink.

In the background those big male voices
went on and on, turning the old crank
about hard work and god, waving the flag

and whipping the dread into a froth.
Then one day my father had finished
his surveillance, or it had finished him,

and the cable-TV guy
showed up at the house apologetically
to take back the company equipment:

the complicated black box with the dangling cord,
and the gray rectangular remote control,
like a little coffin.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx--Tony Hoagland

*For those unfamiliar with the American media landscape, Fox News is the antichrist : )

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 02-07-2019 at 07:58 PM.
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Unread 02-07-2019, 10:29 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Nice poem, Jim.
The best poem I read in the past week is probably Rimbaud's "Le Dormeur du val." He was sixteen. Here it is in French and English:

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Unread 02-07-2019, 10:51 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,164

My socks are still knocked off by the bastard poem that Jan Iwaszkiewicz posted to the Met Board on January 25.
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Unread 02-07-2019, 11:42 AM
Orwn Acra's Avatar
Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: NYC
Posts: 2,003

Other than rereading my drafts this morning, this one by Zaffar Kunial:

From Empty Words

Meaning “homeland” — mulk
(in Kashmir) — exactly how
my son demands milk.

Full-rhyme with Jhelum,
the river nearest his home — 
my father’s “realm.”

You can’t put a leaf
between written and oral;
that first A, or alif.

Letters. West to east
Mum’s hand would write; Dad’s script goes
east to west. Received.

Invader, to some — 
neither here, nor there, with me — 
our rhododendron.

Where migrating geese
pause to sleep — somewhere, halfway
is this pillow’s crease.

Now we separate
for the first time, on our walk,
at the kissing gate.

Old English “Deor” — 
an exile’s lament, the past’s
dark, half-opened door.

Yes, I know. Empty.
But there’s just something between
the p and the t.

At home in Grasmere — 
thin mountain paths have me back,
a boy in Kashmir.
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Unread 02-07-2019, 01:04 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: *
Posts: 1,903

I'll second what Julie said. I was about to be in transit back to home and was feeling less than eager to do anything. Hell of a poem, Jan. But, as you tend to be the king of misery (so I naturally gravitate towards your work), I thought of one of the best titled poems ever, in the other direction. It's terrible that I can't recall the the poem (tho am a little familiar with his work and like it). Steve Mueske's "A Poem Without Sadness."
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Unread 02-07-2019, 07:12 PM
R. Nemo Hill's Avatar
R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Halcott, New York
Posts: 9,048

The Last Word

Creep into thy narrow bed,—
Creep, and let no more be said!
Vain thy onset! all stands fast.
Thou thyself must break at last.

Let the long contention cease!
Geese are swans, and swans are geese.
Let them have it how they will!
Thou art tired; best be still.

They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee?
Better men fared thus before thee;
Fired their ringing shot and pass'd,
Hotly charged—and sank at last.

Charge once more, then, and be dumb!
Let the victors, when they come,
When the forts of folly fall,
Find thy body by the wall!

(Matthew Arnold)
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Unread 02-07-2019, 07:38 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 3,996

I love how you put the question, Jim! "What poem got inside you lately?" Ha!

Well, this one got inside me, and funny, because it's about being got inside.

Bone Scan

Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising.
— Psalm 139

In the twinkling of an eye,
in a moment, all is changed:
on a small radiant screen
(honeydew melon green)
are my scintillating bones.
Still in my flesh I see
the God who goes with me
glowing with radioactive
isotopes. This is what he
at last allows a mortal
eye to behold: the grand
supporting frame complete
(but for wisdom teeth),
the friend who lives beneath
appearances, alive
with light. Each glittering bone
assures me: you are known.

Gwen Harwood

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Unread 02-07-2019, 07:56 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,346

Ah! Each post gives pleasure.

John, Wow to that Rimbaud poem. It is an impressionistic piece of literature. (I'm sure it's got it's own name in the same vein. It feels imagist. Something John Riley could write.) Such vividness.

Julie, I had thought about stipulating only poetry other than what we see here on Eratosphere but thought again: why not? It is not altogether uncommon to read something here that floors me. Yes, I'm still barefoot, too, from Jan's bastard poem.

Thanks for that Nemo. I coincidentally had seen that poem recently somewhere and so now it takes on added interest because it's following me : )

Walter, that's a fantastic play with words, thank you.

James, That's an intriguing title. Funny thing is I googled it and came up with nothing -- zilch. That’s a rarity with google. It said, “Your search - Steve Mueske's "A Poem Without Sadness" - did not match any documents. A google dead end is rare.

But in the process I did find this by Mueske and fell immediately in love with it:

To All the Frogs

who sleep in the mud,
who cling to the trees and sing me
to sleep each night: I confess
a love for your instrument.
Your throats fill like instant bellows
with enough air for those
profundo lows: quick clench
of muscle that needs
the whole body, the Baby,-
I'm-Your-Man muscle, the muscle
that coils all the way down
to your toes. Then gone:
a belching horn blast of a note
that blows across the pond.
I love to listen to your ethereal choir –
your basses and altos, tenors
and sopranos – through my window
after making love, when you sing
of all the world's loneliness,
and I lie sweaty on the sheets,
nerves jangling like a hotwired Yes.
“I love that sound,” my wife says,
her voice dreamy and slow;
I listen to the flavor of the dark,
its mosses, its mud and still water –
the insects, the leaves breathing –
as my body cools, and I feel
the drowsy tendrils of sleep
bring me down easy, so easy.

(Steve Mueske)
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Unread 02-07-2019, 10:01 PM
David Rosenthal David Rosenthal is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Berkeley, CA, USA
Posts: 3,113

Been re-reading George Higgins book since he and Charlotte Innes are reading at the (re-)launch of Fourth Friday Formal in a couple of weeks. This is a pretty well-know poem of George's, but it is close to my heart -- closer each time I read it:


(Spielberg visited an inner city school in response to a class of
black students who had laughed inappropriately at a showing of
his movie about the holocaust
Schindler’s List.)

When Steven spoke at Oakland High
A custodian swept up the shattered glass,
replaced the broken clocks to satisfy

the Governor, who was preoccupied
with becoming President, with covering his ass
When Steven Spielberg spoke at Oakland High

the District found diminishing supplies
of disinfectant and toilet paper stashed
away, so they replaced the clocks instead to satisfy

the cameras and the press that they had rectified
the deficiencies among the underclass.
When Steven Spielberg spoke at Oakland High

the students didn’t seem dissatisfied
about the cover up, just happy to be out of class.
The custodian replaced the broken clocks to satisfy

this need we have to falsify
the truth in subservience to cash.
When Steven Spielberg came to Oakland High
the custodian replaced the broken clocks.
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Unread 02-08-2019, 06:37 AM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,707

I was given a heads up, thanks Julie, James and Jim. Made my day.

Mine is this one by Les Murray. Non Aussies please persevere past the first couple of stanzas:

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.

Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.
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