“Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio

One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
carefully, oh.


“Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio. From Poetry (April 2014).

“Getting Older” by Kim Addonizio

Sometimes what you remember is their voices again,
coming on inside you like strung lights in your blood,
certain words they’d tongue differently
from anyone else, or your own name
and its surprisingly infinite nuances.
And sometimes you remember their hands,
not touching you but draped over a steering wheel
or cupped briefly around a cigarette,
anywhere you could watch them
in their life apart from you, knowing how
they’d find you later, blind but sure,
and come to rest where you needed them.
You remember the hardness of their bellies,
the soft line of hair that swirls down
toward the cock, the look of each one
that entered you and then withdrew, or lay
quietly inside awhile longer before slipping
away like a girl sneaking out in the middle
of the night, high heels dangling from one hand
as her stockinged feet drew sparks from the rug.
Sometimes you wander the house all day,
the fog outside stalled at the tops
of trees, refusing to rise higher and reveal
the world you hope is still there, the one
in which you’re still a woman
some beautiful man might helplessly
move toward. And you remember how one
looked at you the first time you undressed,
how another didn’t mind that you cried.
Sometimes it’s enough just to say
their names like a rosary, ordinary names
linked by nothing but the fact
that they belong to men who loved you. And finally
you depend on that, you pray it’s enough
to last, if it has to, the rest of your life.

“Getting Older” by Kim Addonizio, Tell MeBOA Editions Ltd.

“First Poem for You” by Kim Addonizio

I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of
where they are, know by heart the neat
lines of lightning pulsing just above
your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue
swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent
twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you

to me, taking you until we’re spent
and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss
the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until
you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists
or turns to pain between us, they will still
be there. Such permanence is terrifying.
So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.

Kim Addonizio, “First Poem For You” from The Philosopher’s Club. Copyright © 1994 by Kim Addonizio.

“For Desire” by Kim Addonizio

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I’m drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I’m nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look

“For Desire” by Kim Addonizio, Tell MeBOA Editions Ltd.

“November 11 — 2004” by Kim Addonizio


The first time I visited The Wall, the Vietnam veterans memorial in Washington, I was overwhelmed by the power of all those names, each name a life lost. But each name also a life honored and remembered. I think that’s one impulse of poetry: to name what passes, trying to hold it in our hearts a little longer.

The opening line of “November 11” came into my head on Veterans Day in 2004 complete with that grandiose “O” and exclamation point. I was driving to the gym, thinking what I have often thought: “Wow, it’s all creation and destruction at the same time, every moment.” As I was working on the poem and started naming, I found I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to fix those people in memory. But I soon saw what an impossible task that was; there were — are — too many dead. That’s partly what the poem is about. The rain is for me the astonishing dailiness of all this death, so much of it from war and violence.

I used some Iraqi women’s names because that’s what I thought about, the women there who were dying and losing their loved ones. And the four American soldiers were listed in the San Francisco Chronicle that day, part of the ongoing body count. The exclamation points are meant to be both sincere and ironic, just as the rain becomes both the beauty of being alive and the continuation of all of our forms of ignorance.

~ Kim Addonizio, poet, in the Washington Post

NOVEMBER 11 — 2004  by Kim Addonizio

O everyone’s dead and the rain today is marvelous!
I drive to the gym, the streets are slick,
everyone’s using their wipers, people are walking
with their shoulders hunched, wearing hoods
or holding up umbrellas, of course, of course,
it’s all to be expected — fantastic!
My mother’s friend Annie, her funeral’s today!
The writer Iris Chang, she just shot herself!
And Arafat, he’s dead, too! The doctors refuse
to say what killed him, his wife is fighting
with the Palestinians over his millions, the parking lot
of the gym is filled with muddy puddles!
I run 4.3 m.p.h. on the treadmill, and they’re dead
in Baghdad and Fallujah, Mosul and Samarra and Latifiya —
Nadia and Surayah, Nahla and Hoda and Noor,
their husbands and cousins and brothers —
dead in their own neighborhoods! Imagine!
Marine Staff Sgt. David G. Ries, 29, Clark, WA.: killed!
Army Spc. Quoc Binh Tran, 26, Mission Viejo, CA: killed,
Army Spc. Bryan L. Freeman, 31, Lumberton, NJ — same deal!
Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Larn, 22, NY, you guessed it!
O I could go on and on, for as long as I live!
In Africa, too, they’ve been starved and macheted!
The morning paper said the Serbs apologized
for Srebrenica, 7,800 Muslims murdered in 1995,
I know it’s old news, but hey, they’re still dead!
I almost forgot my neighbor’s niece, 16 and puking in
Kaiser Emergency, the cause a big mystery
until the autopsy — toxic shock syndrome,
of all things — I thought that was history, too,
but I guess girls are still dying; who knew! I run
for two miles, my knees hurt, and my shins,
I step off and stretch for a bit, I go back outside
into the rain, it feels chilly and good, it goes on
all day, unending and glorious, falling and filling
the roof-gutters, flooding the low-lying roads.

~ Kim AddonizioLucifer at the Starlite: Poems


Kim opens her reading with “November 11 — 2004” in the following video: