Monday, August 17, 2015

Splitting An Order - Ted Kooser

I like to watch an old man cutting a sandwich in half,
maybe an ordinary cold roast beef on whole wheat bread,
no pickles or onion, keeping his shaky hands steady
by placing his forearms firm on the edge of the table
and using both hands, the left to hold the sandwich in place,
and the right to cut it surely, corner to corner,
observing his progress through glasses that moments before
he wiped with his napkin, and then to see him lift half 
onto the extra plate that he had asked the server to bring,
and then to wait, offering the plate to his wife
while she slowly unrolls her napkin and places her spoon,
her knife and her fork in their proper places, 
then smoothes the starched white napkin over her knees
and meets his eyes and holds out both old hands to him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wild Geese - Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't Tell Anyone - Tony Hoagland

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if I should consider myself

personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,

politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak

of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;

that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss

of your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one PM, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;

—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.

Monday, July 13, 2015

From The Book of Hours, I 59, Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I Go Back To The House For A Book - Billy Collins

I turn around on the gravel 
and go back to the house for a book, 
something to read at the doctor’s office, 
and while I am inside, running the finger 
of inquisition along a shelf, 
another me that did not bother 
to go back to the house for a book 
heads out on his own, 
rolls down the driveway, 
and swings left toward town, 
a ghost in his ghost car, 
another knot in the string of time, 
a good three minutes ahead of me— 
a spacing that will now continue 
for the rest of my life. 
Sometimes I think I see him 
a few people in front of me on a line 
or getting up from a table 
to leave the restaurant just before I do, 
slipping into his coat on the way out the door. 
But there is no catching him, 
no way to slow him down 
and put us back in synch, 
unless one day he decides to go back 
to the house for something, 
but I cannot imagine 
for the life of me what that might be. 
He is out there always before me, 
blazing my trail, invisible scout, 
hound that pulls me along, 
shade I am doomed to follow, 
my perfect double, 
only bumped an inch into the future, 
and not nearly as well-versed as I 
in the love poems of Ovid— 
I who went back to the house 
that fateful winter morning and got the book.