Browsing Category "Poems"
16 Aug
2017
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So Brutal and Alive

My God, It’s Full of Stars (continued)
by Tracy K. Smith

5.
When my father worked on the Hubble Telescope, he said
They operated like surgeons: scrubbed and sheathed
In papery green, the room a clean cold, and bright white.

He’d read Larry Niven at home, and drink scotch on the rocks,
His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years,
When we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled

To view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons
Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.
His face lit-up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise

As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending
Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons
For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. Rock Hudson died.

We learned new words for things. The decade changed.

The first few pictures came back blurred, and I felt ashamed
For all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time,
The optics jibed. We saw to the edge of all there is —

So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.

***

(end of series)

15 Aug
2017
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Or Does That End?

My God, It’s Full of Stars (continued)
by Tracy K. Smith

4.
In those last scenes of Kubrick’s 2001
When Dave is whisked into the center of space,
Which unfurls in an aurora of orgasmic light
Before opening wide, like a jungle orchid
For a love-struck bee, then goes liquid,
Paint-in-water, and then gauze wafting out and off,
Before, finally, the night tide, luminescent
And vague, swirls in, and on and on…

In those last scenes, as he floats
Above Jupiter’s vast canyons and seas,
Over the lava strewn plains and mountains
Packed in ice, that whole time, he doesn’t blink.
In his little ship, blind to what he rides, whisked
Across the wide-screen of unparceled time,
Who knows what blazes thorough his mind?
Is it still his life he moves through, or does
That end at the end of what he can name?

On set, it’s shot after shot till Kubrick is happy,
Then the costumes go back on their racks
And the great gleaming set goes black.

***

(to be continued)

14 Aug
2017
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The Frenzy of Being

My God, It’s Full of Stars (continued)
by Tracy K. Smith

3.
Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone,

That the others have come and gone — a momentary blip —

When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,

Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel

Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,

Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,

Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones

At whatever are their moons. They live wondering

If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,

And the great black distance they — we — flicker in.

Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,

Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on

At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns

Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be

One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.

Wide open, so everything floods in at once.

And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,

Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.

So that I might be sitting now beside my father

As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe

For the first time in the winter of 1959.

***

(to be continued)

11 Aug
2017
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Toward God-Knows-Where

My God, It’s Full of Stars (continued)
by Tracy K. Smith

2.
Charlton Heston is waiting to be let in. He asked once politely.
A second time with force from the diaphragm. The third time,
He did it like Moses: arms raised high, face an apocryphal white.

Shirt crisp, suit trim, he stoops a little coming in,
Then grows tall. He scans the room. He stands until I gesture,
Then he sits. Birds commence their evening chatter. Someone fires

Charcoals out below. He’ll take a whiskey if I have it. Water if I don’t.
I ask him to start from the beginning, but he goes only halfway back.
That was the future once, he says. Before the world went upside down.

Hero, surviver, God’s right hand man, I know he sees the blank
Surface of the moon where I see a language built from brick and bone.
He sits straight in his seat, takes a long, slow high-thespian breath,

Then lets it go. For all I know, I was the last true man on this earth, And:
May I smoke? The voices outside soften. Planes jet past heading off or back.
Someone cries that she does not want to go to bed. Footsteps overhead.

A fountain in the neighbor’s yard babbles to itself, and the night air
Lifts the sound indoors. It was another time, he says, picking up again.
We were pioneers. Will you fight to stay alive here, riding the earth

Toward God-knows-where? I think of Atlantis buried under ice, gone
One day from sight, the shore from which it rose now glacial and stark.
Our eyes adjust to the dark.

***

(to be continued)

10 Aug
2017
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Some Like to Imagine…

My God, It’s Full of Stars
by Tracy K. Smith

1.
We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies. One man

Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.

Man with a ship to catch, a payload to drop,
This message going out to all of space… Though
Maybe it’s more like life below the sea: silent,

Buoyant, bizarrely benign. Relics
Of an outmoded design. Some like to image
A cosmic mother watching through a spray of stars,

Mouthing yes, yes as we toddle toward the light,
Biting her lip if we teeter at some ledge. Longing
To sweep us to her breast, she hopes for the best

While the father storms through adjacent rooms
Ranting with the force of Kingdom Come,
Not caring anymore what might snap us in its jaw.

Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.

The books have lived here all along, belonging
For weeks at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,

A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.

***

(to be continued)

7 Aug
2017
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Excuse Me for Interrupting…

I Confess
by Alison Luterman

I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
watching
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her
basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.
I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know
how to be married for fifty years or how to live
alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to
posses
some knowledge that makes the earth turn and
burn on its axis–”
But we don’t request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.” 

4 Aug
2017
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Hunting.

Summer
by Tony Hoagland

The tourists are strolling down Alpine Street
hoping for a deal on hand-carved rocking chairs
or some bronze Kali Yuga earrings
from the local Yak Arts dealer.
It’s summer. No one needs therapy for now,
or a guide to the aesthetics of collage
–laughing as they walk past the acupuncture clinic,
and Orleans Fish and Chips,
then double back to the Omega store
to look more closely at those shoes.
People like to buy. They just do.
They like the green tissue paper.
They like extracting the card from its tight
prophylactic sheath, handing it over,
and getting it back.
They like to swing the bag when they stroll away.
They like to stash the box in the car.
A forty-year-old man stares at a wetsuit on the rack:
Is it too late in life to dress up like a seal and surf?
–as the beech tree in front of the courthouse suddenly
fluffs itself up and flutters,
and a woman with a henna rinse
holds a small glass vase up to the light
to see the tiny turquoise bubbles trapped inside.
As a child she felt a secret just inside her skin,
always on the brink of bursting out.
Now the secret is on the outside,
and she is hunting it.  

27 Jul
2017
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Go On….

Getting Closer
by Mark Nepo

Go on, the voices say, part the veil.
Not with your hands. Hands will only
tangle the hours like a net. Get closer.
So you can part the veil with your breath.
The world keeps moving in on itself. It’s
what it does. Cobwebs. Opinions. Moss.
Worries. Dirt. Leaves. History. Go on. Put
them down and get real close. Open your
mouth and inhale all the way to the begin-
ning, which lives within us, not behind us.
Then wait. When something ordinary starts
to glow, we are getting closer. When the light
off the river paints the roots of that old 
willow
just as you pass, the world is telling you to
stop running. Forget what it means, just
stop running. When the moon makes you
finger the wet grass, the veil is parting.
When the knot you carry is loosened,
the veil is parting. When you can’t help
but say yes to all that is waiting, the
veil is parting.

25 Jul
2017
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Silence Taunts

The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
by Tracy K. Smith

The first track still almost swings. High hat and
snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will singe-out
soon enough.

Synthesized strings. Then something like
cellophane
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe. Crinkle and
drag. White noise,

Black noise. What must be voices bob up, then
drop, like metal shavings
In molasses. So much for us. So much for the
flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we
filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame.
Listen:

The dark we’ve only ever imagined now audible,
thrumming,
Marbled with static like grisly meat. A chorus of 
engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disap-
pears
Disappears as if returning somewhere. 

15 Jun
2017
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All That We Live Blind To

In celebration of Tracy K. Smith, our new Poet Laureate!

The Largeness We Can’t See
by Tracy K. Smith

When our laughter skids across the floor
Like beads yanked from some girl’s throat
What waits where the 
laughter gathers?

And later, when our saw-toothed breaths
Lay us down on a bed of leaves, what feeds
With ceaseless focus on the leaves?

It’s solid, yet permeable, like a mood.
Like God, it has no face. Like lust,
It flickers on without a prick of guilt.

We move in and out of rooms, leaving
Our dust, our voices pooled on sills.
We hurry from door to door in a downpour

Of days. Old trees inch up, their trunks thick
With new rings. All that we see grows
Into the ground. And all we live blind to

Leans its deathless heft to our ears
and sings.