Thursday, December 15, 2005

Poetry by Other People

Here: Have some poetry I like. I'd like to hear people's opinions on the different poems I've selected. Hopefully these will get you into the Christmas spirit. Yeah right. Well, maybe they'll get you thinking about death, racism, manhood, sex, old age, and war, right?

Dog's Death

By John Updike,

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog! Good dog!"

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.

The Telephone Conversation

By Wole Soyinka

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self- confession “Madam, I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey- I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurised good – breeding. Voice, when it came
Lipstick-coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette- holder pipped. Caught I was foully
“HOW DARK?...... I had not misheard……
“ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A, stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and –speak
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real. Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis-
ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came
“You mean –like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality, Rapidly, wave length adjusted,
I chose “West African sepia”- and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT IS THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS” “Like brunette.”
THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” Not altogether,
Facially, I am a brunette, but Madam you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction caused
Foolishly, Madam – by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black- One moment – sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- “Madam” I pleaded “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”


By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

she being Brand

by E.E. Cummings

she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff i was
careful of her and(having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell)next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

brakes Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.


Common Ground

by Judith Ortiz Tofer

Blood tells the story of your life
in heartbeats as you live it;
bones speak in the language
of death, and flesh thins
with age when up
through your pores rises
the stuff of your origin.

These days,
when I look into the mirror I see
my grandmother's stern lips
speaking in parnetheses at the corners
of my mouth of pain and deprivation
I have never known. I recognize
my father's brows arching in disdain
over the objects of my vanity, my mother's
nervous hands smoothing lines
just appearing on my skin,
like arrows pointing downward
to our common ground.


by Robin Morgan
for Isel Rivero

Gunmen attacked a school in northwestern Rwanda last Monday, killing seventeen girls.... The Attack took place after the Hutu gunmen ordered the girls to separate into groups of ethnic Hutu or Tutsi, and the students refused to comply.

--From The New York Times, April 30, 1997

Insane, sadistic gods to whom I offer
only my denial and disgust,
how do we bear witness to each other
when such defiance gleams beyond our trust?

They stupify us, these small, nameless girls
in whose name Love linked arms with her best friend.
Courage skulks shamed before these little skulls
rotting on the grassy school playground.

Let me be worthy of such children, slain
where they stand, who in the face of dying, cling.
Let me be equal to my small, sufficient pain
and in the broken teeth of horror, sing.


bawb said...

Heard "If" before, but it's still grand. "Dog's Death" was fantastic; I started off irritated with the mostly irregular meter and rhyme, but the ending overcame it.

blueshorts said...

I like Invocation. It is sad. Yet I agree with the poet, I hope to be worthy of such selfless children. To love without fear.

Sara Bear said...

call me lazy, but the desire to read poetry approved of by my friend who I esteem as awesome, is highly diluted when there are so many in one blog. If you had made it a blog series, I would so totally be on the edge of mmy seat. Now, I don't know if I'll ever read it. I surely won't appreciate each one to its fullest. Just honest, friend.

Vero Awesome said...

Okay, so the dog one made me super depressed, Rudyard made me feel a little better about myself, and the last one just made me shake my head and That reminds me I have some glorious pictures you should see. By the way have I mentioned I'm moving to Colerado? Visit the Yule Blog for updateage.

Sara Bear said...

ok, so one at a time, then.

the good dog one was interesting. the ideas and syntx were not the most eloquent, but it fits with the ideas of potty training simply living with a dog, which was nice to portray that color.

It also wasn't so depressing that the world could not continue becuase it was a pet rather than a child or spouse, but it was tnder enough that you know the doggy was well-loved.

Also, it was a very specific event, not one you could apply to every doggy's death, and that made me more sympathetic to the author.

I liked it.