“How it Will Happen, When” by Dorianne Laux (repost)

There you are, exhausted from a night of crying, curled up on the couch,
the floor, at the foot of the bed, anywhere you fall you fall down crying,
half amazed at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry
anymore. And there they are, his socks, his shirt, your underwear
and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile next to the bathroom door,
and you fall down again. Someday, years from now, things will be
different, the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows
shining, sun coming in easily now, sliding across the high shine of wax
on the wood floor. You’ll be peeling an orange or watching a bird
spring from the edge of the rooftop next door, noticing how,
for an instant, its body is stopped on the air, only a moment before
gathering the will to fly into the ruff at its wings and then doing it:
flying. You’ll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word
you don’t understand, a simple word like now or what or is
and you’ll ponder over it like a child discovering language.
Is you’ll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that’s
when you’ll say it, for the first time, out loud: He’s dead. He’s not
coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.

Dorianne Laux, from Smoke

*originally posted May 22, 2014.

“Vigil” by Dennis O’Driscoll

Life is too short to sleep through.
Stay up late, wait until the sea of traffic ebbs,
until noise has drained from the world
like blood from the cheeks of the full moon.
Everyone else around you has succumbed:
they lie like tranquillised pets on a vet’s table;
they languish on hospital trolleys and friends’ couches,
on iron beds in hostels for the homeless,
under feather duvets at tourist B&Bs.
The radio, devoid of listeners to confide in,
turns repetitious. You are your own voice-over.
You are alone in the bone-weary tower
of your bleary-eyed, blinking lighthouse,
watching the spillage of tide on the shingle inlet.
You are the single-minded one who hears
time shaking from the clock’s fingertips
like drops, who watches its hands
chop years into diced seconds,
who knows that when the church bell
tolls at 2 or 3 it tolls unmistakably for you.
You are the sole hand on deck when
temperatures plummet and the hull
of an iceberg is jostling for prominence.
Your confidential number is the life-line
where the sedated long-distance voices
of despair hold out muzzily for an answer.
You are the emergency services’ driver
ready to dive into action at the first
warning signs of birth or death.
You spot the crack in night’s façade
even before the red-eyed businessman
on look-out from his transatlantic seat.
You are the only reliable witness to when
the light is separated from the darkness,
who has learned to see the dark in its true
colours, who has not squandered your life.

“Vigil” by Dennis O’Driscoll, from New and Selected Poems  © Anvil Press Poetry

“Negative Space” by Ron Koertge (repost; Academy Award Nominated Short)

Good luck to poet Ron Koertge, whose poem “Negative Space” inspired the animated short film of the same name by Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata. Their film is nominated for an Academy Award on tonight’s Oscars in the “Short Film, Animated” category.

I usually try to fly under the radar here, relying upon word-of-mouth and friends sharing posts with other friends, but occasionally a poem will get mentioned or linked to by a bigger fish out there. In this case, Ron’s poem has been linked to by NPR and by Colossal, a leading visual arts and design site. I appreciate their generous linkings and welcome any new poetry fans that discovered us from their sites.

Ron Koertge is one of my favorite poets–I’ve shared a couple other poems by Ron here and here–and I couldn’t be happier for him (or for poetry) that he has garnered so much positive and well-deserved recognition. I’ll be rooting for Ron and Max and Ru tonight … I even picked them in my Oscar Pool! Please be sure to check out Ron’s website, his Tumblr, or visit him on Twitter.

Here’s the trailer to “Negative Space”; the poem follows below.

“Negative Space” by Ron Koertge

My dad taught me to pack: lay out everything. Put back half. Roll things
that roll. Wrinkle-prone things on top of cotton things. Then pants, waist-
to-hem. Nooks and crannies for socks. Belts around the sides like snakes.
Plastic over that. Add shoes. Wear heavy stuff on the plane.
      We started when I was little. I’d roll up socks. Then he’d pretend to put me
in the suitcase, and we’d laugh. Some guys bond with their dads shooting
hoops or talking about Chevrolets. We did it over luggage.
      By the time I was twelve, if he was busy, I’d pack for him. Mom tried
but didn’t have the knack. He’d get somewhere, open his suitcase and text
me—”Perfect.” That one word from him meant a lot.
      The funeral was terrible—him laid out in that big carton and me crying
and thinking, Look at all that wasted space.

“Negative Space” by Ron Koertge, from Sex World. © Red Hen Press, 2014 (via Writer’s Almanac)

“How I Became a Madman” by Kahlil Gibran

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives — I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

Kahlil Gibran, The Madman, His Parables and Poems, (1918)


“Madman” by Sean Rowe

“Thank-You Note” by Wisława Szymborska

I owe so much
to those I don’t love.

The relief as I agree
that someone else needs them more.

The happiness that I’m not
the wolf to their sheep.

The peace I feel with them,
the freedom –
love can neither give
nor take that.

I don’t wait for them,
as in window-to-door-and-back.
Almost as patient
as a sundial,
I understand
what love can’t,
and forgive
as love never would.

From a rendezvous to a letter
is just a few days or weeks,
not an eternity.

Trips with them always go smoothly,
concerts are heard,
cathedrals visited,
scenery is seen.

And when seven hills and rivers
come between us,
the hills and rivers
can be found on any map.

They deserve the credit
if I live in three dimensions,
in nonlyrical and nonrhetorical space
with a genuine, shifting horizon.

They themselves don’t realize
how much they hold in their empty hands.

“I don’t owe them a thing,”
would be love’s answer
to this open question.

Wisława Szymborska, from A Large Number, 1976, as published in Map: Collected and Last Poems, paperback ed 2016, Mariner Books.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh