Entries Tagged as 'Poetry'

Coffee Break By Kwame Dawes

Every so often I get an email from Ted Kooser that includes a poem so good, so startling that I have to reproduce it here on these pages. This is one.

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Kwame Dawes is the editor of Prairie Schooner and one of my colleagues at the University of Nebraska. Had I never had the privilege of getting to know him I still would have loved the following poem, for its clear and matter-of-fact account of a sudden loss.

Coffee Break 

It was Christmastime,
the balloons needed blowing,
and so in the evening
we sat together to blow
balloons and tell jokes,
and the cool air off the hills
made me think of coffee,
so I said, “Coffee would be nice,”
and he said, “Yes, coffee
would be nice,” and smiled
as his thin fingers pulled
the balloons from the plastic bags;
so I went for coffee,
and it takes a few minutes
to make the coffee
and I did not know
if he wanted cow’s milk
or condensed milk,
and when I came out
to ask him, he was gone,
just like that, in the time
it took me to think,
cow’s milk or condensed;
the balloons sat lightly
on his still lap.
~Kwame Dawes


Our Neighbor

One of the wonders of poetry is a good poet’s ability to compress a great deal of life into a few words. Here’s a life story told small, by Ivan Hobson, who lives in California.

Our Neighbor: 

Every family that lived in our court
had an American truck
with a union sticker on the back

 

and as a kid I admired them
the way I thought our soldiers
must have admired Patton
and Sherman tanks.

 

You once told me
that the Russians couldn’t take us,
not with towns like ours
full of iron, full of workers tempered
by the fires of foundries and mills.

 

It wasn’t the Russians that came;
it was the contract, the strike,
the rounds of layoffs that blistered
until your number was called.

 

I still remember you loading up
to leave for the last time,
the union sticker scraped off
with a putty knife,

 

the end of the white tarp draped
over your truck bed
flapping as you drove away.

 


Review of “Altitude Poems and Stories” by Craig Brandis

Surprise! “Altitude Poems and Stories” by Craig Brandis was just published; a slick covered chap book with some marvelous images. Though slightly melancholy, the poems are filled with surprising images. I didn’t know Brandis could write this well. Some poems seemed to be lifted from masters, themselves.

In Mount St. Helens, he writes of the mountain while camping out under a “diamond hard sky” or climbing “its scabrous slopes into the brilliant, orange-white morning.”

In “The Wandering Mind” Brandis writes:

“Tender is
the fleet of electric birds
bluing the trees
in their sockets,
wiring the
world with
song-“

In “The Daily News” a beach house keeps watch with “brindled eyes” and the sea is “just wave on wave, like a furrowed brow.” “Some days birds skim the rollers/ like penitents walking the breadth/ of a watery country”

Finally, “Red Tail” gives us this great image:

a red tailed hawk hunts
oceans of air-feathering
oars before the kill

Well done Craig Brandis! Keep writing poems

ESBN 978-1-304-71809-9


The Pain Of Losing A Parent

Bev’s mom has alzheimer’s and this poem reminded me of her wonderful mother:

A Grandfather by Marie Thurmer, a poet now living in Nebraska

We waded in the shallows,
holding his hands, then just
fingertips, as his feet
slowly lifted off the bottom.
The land did not stop
at the waterline, but simply
became unreachable.
His worn face bobbed above
the waves, breath in an O
as our words, fistfuls
of shimmering minnows,
scattered, lost on their way
to him. The tide carried
him out, then back a bit,
a gradual letting go into dark
waters, and we, still
in the ebb, could almost
mistake that O
for the response we wanted—
on the ins, I’ll remember you,
on the outs, goodbye.

Today’s Poetry

Tracy K. Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poems, Life on Mars, from which I’ve selected this week’s poem, which presents a payday in the way many of us at some time have experienced it. The poet lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Good Life

When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.

~Tracy K. Smith~

A Wonderful Way With Words

Time Study
by Marvin Bell

The coffee was cold so I said so. I said,
my coffee is cold, and then I repeated it
but with a variation, something like, my
coffee is cold and I said so, and then, I
said I am glad my coffee is cold because
I get to say so, and I said my coffee is cold
like the Sahara at night, and I said the Sahara
is a lot like my coffee, which has cream,
and it is cold which means I have to say so
or someone will say to drink my coffee,
which is cold and the camels are asleep.

Let’s try it again, I said, taking a sip of coffee,
and then not taking a sip but still holding
the cup and I said look at the cup and see
if you can see the Sahara and then I said,
it was in there a moment ago but I took a sip
and it is inside me I suppose, and I said then
the same thing, my coffee is cold, and also,
this coffee is cold to make sure they knew
which coffee, not coffee as coffee but coffee
as a part of the whole and also immediate
in some sense, like waking in the desert.

I write a lot about coffee, I said, and I said,
I just need to see who my friends are, the ones
who will stay till the end, and I added, I do not
take death as a personal insult, and I said it was
good to repeat things but not ideas, and I said
it was not good to repeat ideas, and I said also
it was good to repeat things, and I said my coffee
is cold and I can say so and I said when I say
my coffee is cold it is part of something bigger
that can last as long as I say it is, still is, and then
I said my coffee is still cold at this time, still is.


Copyright © 2013 by Marvin Bell. Used with permission of the author.
About This Poem
“I’m partial to coffee shops, brain work, and poems on the page. I write after midnight. Sometimes, twisty syntax happens, and I surrender.”

–Marvin Bell

Tasting On The Winery Tour

Wine Tasting
by Kim Addonizio

I think I detect cracked leather.
I’m pretty sure I smell the cherries
from a Shirley Temple my father bought me

in 1959, in a bar in Orlando, Florida,
and the chlorine from my mother’s bathing cap.
And last winter’s kisses, like salt on black ice,

like the moon slung away from the earth.
When Li Po drank wine, the moon dove
in the river, and he staggered after.

Probably he tasted laughter.
When my friend Susan drinks
she cries because she’s Irish

and childless. I’d like to taste,
one more time, the rain that arrived
one afternoon and fell just short

of where I stood, so I leaned my face in,
alive in both worlds at once,
knowing it would end and not caring.

Copyright © 2013 by Kim Addonizio. Used with permission of the author.

Ah, Summer!

Summer in the South
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The oriole sings in the greening grove

As if he were half-way waiting,

The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,

Timid and hesitating.

The rain comes down in a torrent sweep

And the nights smell warm and piney,

The garden thrives, but the tender shoots

Are yellow-green and tiny.

Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,

Streams laugh that erst were quiet,

The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue

And the woods run mad with riot.


Going To The Dermatologist This Week

Basal Cell By George Bilgere of Ohio

The sun is still burning in my skin
even though it set half-an-hour ago,
and Cindy and Bob and Bev and John
are pulling on their sweatshirts
and gathering around the fire pit.

John hands me a cold one
and now Bev comes into my arms
and I can feel the sun’s heat,
and taste the Pacific on her cheek.

I am not in Vietnam,
nor is John or Bob, because
our deferments came through,
and we get to remain boys
for at least another summer
like this one in Santa Cruz,
surfing the afternoons in a sweet
blue dream I’m remembering now,

as the nurse puts my cheek to sleep,
and the doctor begins to burn
those summers away.


We Live For Them

sugar is smoking

by Jason Schneiderman

it’s amazing how death
is always around the corner,
or not even so far away
as that, hiding in the little pleasures
that some of us would go
so far as to say
are the only things
keeping us alive


Copyright © 2007 Mover Mike. Design by Anthony Baggett.