Today I read

Manifesto

by Alison Luterman

I was the wild-haired girl by the side of the road,
thumb out, steering a jittery course
between terror and boredom.
Hours later, if you cared to look,
you'd find me rattling around
in the back of a truck,
carried headlong into the next thing.
It was just my luck
to have been born when I was,
on the cusp of a chaotic abundance,
and, as my sister said,
I was the fastest sperm,
or maybe just the most persistent.
What luck I've had since then,
to sleep in the wet spot,
to bruise easily, to laugh till I fart.
What luck that my heart splintered
into ten million silver needles
each one on fire to embroider
love-stained and prisoner of the self
on red satin pillows.
Lucky to live a lifetime
in the years between losses,
to lie awake at night, wide-eyed
with the doleful sirens and the restless mice;
to sweat a misspent word, to rue the past,
to have a past to rue.
Luckiest of all: to have yearned mightily,
and learned a little,
to have lived inside desire
like Jonah in the whale,
perpetually greedy and hopeful,
making a lifetime out of each mouthful.
And then to find you!  Luck
at the eleventh hour;
undeserved, red-faced, panting,
and overworked guardian angel,
a messenger
from all we can't see, a note
telling us that love is real
was here all along,
a forgotten blue-and-green marble in our back pocket,
an exact replica of the living world.

Today I read

Citizens of a Broken City

by Alison Luterman

She's shuffling around the lake in flip flops
pregnant belly hanging out
over the open strings of her sweat-pants
shouting into her cell phone:
"You just don't get it!"

Indigo twilight streaked with horsetail clouds.
I'm dogging her discreetly, wondering
what don't they get? Everything, probably.
What it's like to be lugging her particular load,
wanted or not, into the uncertain future

while above us the sky is doing its big art installation thing,
sunset's last flush lighting up the West
like those pink neon thighs outlined in shaky fluorescent
on the sign swinging outside a saloon: enter here
for the time of your life.

We're citizens of a broken city, yes
in a dying time, yes,
amid the general din;
improbable that we'll be saved,
still we keep hoping,

which is to say shuffling, limping, or whizzing along---
kids on skateboards and bikes,
the lady with the pink hula hoop
swinging her hips in wide joyous circles,
Chinese elders practicing T'ai Chi under a spreading oak,
all of us putting one
semi-discouraged foot in front of the other
while above us the absolute indifferent magnificence
abounds, abides;
from a certain perspective even our ignorance is dazzling. 

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown

The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
            A penny for the Old Guy


                       I

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats' feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
   
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
   
    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.

   
                              II

    Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
    In death's dream kingdom
    These do not appear:
    There, the eyes are
    Sunlight on a broken column
    There, is a tree swinging
    And voices are
    In the wind's singing
    More distant and more solemn
    Than a fading star.
   
    Let me be no nearer
    In death's dream kingdom
    Let me also wear
    Such deliberate disguises
    Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
    In a field
    Behaving as the wind behaves
    No nearer-
   
    Not that final meeting
    In the twilight kingdom

   
                   III

    This is the dead land
    This is cactus land
    Here the stone images
    Are raised, here they receive
    The supplication of a dead man's hand
    Under the twinkle of a fading star.
   
    Is it like this
    In death's other kingdom
    Waking alone
    At the hour when we are
    Trembling with tenderness
    Lips that would kiss
    Form prayers to broken stone.

   
                     IV

    The eyes are not here
    There are no eyes here
    In this valley of dying stars
    In this hollow valley
    This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
   
    In this last of meeting places
    We grope together
    And avoid speech
    Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
   
    Sightless, unless
    The eyes reappear
    As the perpetual star
    Multifoliate rose
    Of death's twilight kingdom
    The hope only
    Of empty men.

   
                           V

    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o'clock in the morning.
   
    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
   
    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
                                   Life is very long
   
    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
   
    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the
   
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Raking the Leaves with Jack

By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Pulling the rake through the cottonwood leaves,
I think of Jack in Michigan pulling his rake

through beech, birch, oak and ash leaves.
I stop to lean on my rake and I think

of him stopping to lean on his rake
and talk to the gods. I'm not so sure I believe

in gods, but I believe in Jack. I believe in kindness.
I believe in friendship that grows despite distance.

I believe that these rhythms of raking and making piles
bring us closer together--all of us rakers, all of us

who step into the slow cadence of pull and reach,
and pull and reach. There is something unifying

in this annual act of tidying the world. Every day
the news is full of all we can't set right. But we

can drag the rake through the yard so that we
can see the path again. And we can set the rake

aside and stare at the sky and think of all
the people we love and all the people

we'll never know who join us in this simple act,
reach and pull, reach and pull, reach and pull,

the sound of metal tines grating, the beat
of our own hearts scraping against our chests.

From her book Hush.

89 / Glare / Ammons

whatever happens now (let's pray that it will
all be, though it is not likely to be, good)

I guess in my 71st year I've had my turn: turn
as in going from something fresh and new to

something old and fresh, no, I mean, old and
stale: or it could be called a turn through

time, a hand sweeping the arc from dawn to
noon to dusk: this familiar poeticism sounds

okay, but wouldn't it be funny if you could
glance up at the sky and see where the hand of

your time was: the sweep for some would be on
a grander scale than for others, which implies

that each of us has his own sky really, some
little bubbles, some crashed hands hanging there

stupidly in the dome, the arc, hardly begun,
incomplete: whereas, some old fogies

dwell with the setting sun and dance in the
dusk like bouncing bubbles, not staying down

and not popping, either: this thing could be 
a trope, too, this turn, a spiritual thing.

a thingless thing, a giddy or terrified rise,
even in some cases a comfortable and longed-for

coming down: the young look up and see so much
time they forget the moving hand and only much

(two much's) later are shocked to see the hand
leaning weightily west: alas, was that

lost time, then: what time is unnoted time:
well, so, like, we found these nestled nuts

in a closet corner, and, like, well, Phyllis
said, we have a mouse: so we did because

there he was the next morning in the trap I set
but so then we were watching Seinfeld when

abruptly another mouse, like, darted across
the floor, out upon the floor actually and

back, so, well, like, I set the trap again,
but can you believe after two nights it

remains unsprung: I suppose the mouse smelled
death and ran out the way he came, like, gee,

well, it is dangerous: like, he smelled death
and departed: I want to bubble on the brink

provided the spritz isn't pain:

           O HANDS OF TIME

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