Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sample Poems: Volume 24, Numbers 1 and 2

By Michele Wyrebek

It starts with stripping,
layer after layer
getting as bare as possible

the surface - it's necessary
for preservation
to treat the wood first

before restoring it - for hours
he can sand and scrape
in silence.

Something is wrong
with me, according to him,
and he's right, of course -

I have yet to get the hang of it,
life, I mean - the living of it

We are breaking up. He says
he doesn't tear down walls
he deconstructs them -

he builds and repairs, has a gift
for resilience - things improve
in his hands. Except me -

I see suffering's
blueprints wherever I go
and I can't help

wandering through
the plans it devises,
lingering in the details -

simple homes
with plain rooms
and little storage

or intricate structures
with ample space and built-in
shelving - the layouts

for harm are infinite - multi-floored
with well-placed landings
or one-storied open foyers

that welcome hopelessness
and long hallways
that lengthen pain.

Editor's note: This poem was sent to me in September of 1995. Michele had moved to Arlington (MA) but was still attending the Princeton writers group when she could. In her letter, she said, "The poem has gone through many transformations - especially with regard to the title (and I'm not sure "Love" is the best one...)."

Filling My Pen For Action
By Sam Hazo
I thumb the plunger down
  and siphon black ink up
  the way a hypodermic needle
  siphons plasma from a vein.
My ink of choice is ebony
  because it promises to last.
But last as what?
  doodles, letters, labels,
  numbers, signatures on checks
  or shopping lists?
  no guide.
                   Our circumstances
                Regardless, writing
  what we think makes thinking
  truer when we see it written down.
The bravest pages of a poem
  or a book began as blanks
  that craved the consecration of a pen.
And written words increase
  in value over time.
  one surviving letter ( a request
  for money from a lord ) now seems
  as holy as the hairlock of a saint.
The same applies to Jefferson's
  hand-written declaration, Whitman's
  jottings, and ( for me ) my mother's
  letters in a hatbox or my aunt's
  last sentence on an index card....
Recalling this, I watch my nib
  change ink-blood into words
  across this very page to show
  why every word should be as sacred
  as the final word I'll write.
Letter to a Son at War
By Robert Duffy

I thought of you this morning, no
you needn't answer, it's just that
I thought of you. I was in the loft
to throw down the hay; the first
bale broke and blossomed wide
as if flowers dead and pressed
inside had come to life again.
Dust rose on the air and the sun
struck swords of light through knots
and gaps between the boards, and then
I saw you. Kneeling
in the ghastly white of slow
descending flares, your many
shadows shifting dancing on
the rhythm of the fall, your face
as fragile and dangerous
as a looking glass.
I threw down two more bales
and looked again, but the salt wave
of distance troubled my eye like heat
above a pavement. So I went down
the ladder to finish the chores,
chores I would have sent you to do,
if you were still here. The cows all turned
their tan-dark eyes to see their hay,
or perhaps to see if I were you.
Or if you were me. Cows, who's to say?
I'm told they're worshipped
in some places, and I wondered
half-seriously if I might try
to pray to them, except
I couldn't imagine what I ought to say.
Thinking now, something simple,
perhaps a bedtime prayer
from childhood might even be enough.
Do you know one?
There, you see? This
is what it comes to: foolish notions
carefully packaged and sent away,
not knowing whether they'll arrive
or what they'll mean if they do arrive.
Except I know I never meant this,
I never meant to send any
complaints into a desperate war,
one labored page then waking late
to wonder, whatever did I intend?
Let me offer this instead, a bargain
of sorts: If you will find me
changed when you return,
only this, nothing more, nothing
difficult like love; if you will do it,
I will engage to search your face
for wounds to be regretful of.

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