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Tomorrow by David Budbill


we are
 bones and ash,

the roots of weeds 
poking through 
our skulls.


simple clothes,

empty mind,

full stomach,

alive, aware,

right here, 
right now.

Drunk on music,

who needs wine?

Come on,

let’s go dancing
 while we’ve 
still got feet.


The Iceberg Theory by Gerald Locklin

all the food critics hate iceberg lettuce.
you’d think romaine was descended from
orpheus’s laurel wreath,
you’d think raw spinach had all the nutritional
benefits attributed to it by popeye,
not to mention aesthetic subtleties worthy of
verlaine and debussy.
they’ll even salivate over chopped red cabbage
just to disparage poor old mr. iceberg lettuce.

I guess the problem is
it’s just too common for them.
it doesn’t matter that it tastes good,
has a satisfying crunchy texture,
holds its freshness,
and has crevices for the dressing,
whereas the darker, leafier varieties
are often bitter, gritty, and flat.
it just isn’t different enough, and
it’s too goddamn american.

of course a critic has to criticize:
a critic has to have something to say.
perhaps that’s why literary critics
purport to find interesting
so much contemporary poetry
that just bores the shit out of me.

at any rate, I really enjoy a salad
with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce,
the more the merrier,
drenched in an italian or roquefort dressing.
and the poems I enjoy are those I don’t have
to pretend that I’m enjoying.


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm
in Pine Island, Minnesota
by James Wright

Over my head,
I see the bronze butterfly,

Asleep on the black trunk,

Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.

Down the ravine behind the empty house,

The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.

To my right,

In a field of sunlight between two pines,

The droppings of last year’s horses

Blaze up into golden stones.

I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.

A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.

I have wasted my life.


Certain People by Richard Jones

My father lives by the ocean 
and drinks
his morning coffee
in the full sun on his deck,

talking to anyone
who walks by on the beach.

And in the afternoons he works 
part-time at the golf course-sailing the fairways like sea captain
in a white golf cart.

My father must talk
to a hundred people a day,

yet we haven’t spoken in weeks.

As I get older, we hardly speak at all.

It’s as if he were a stranger
and we had never met.

I wonder,
if I
were a tourist on the beach
or a golfer lost in woods
and met him now for the very first time,

what we’d say to each other,

how his hand would feel in mine
as we introduced ourselves,

and if, as is the case
with certain people,
I’d feel,
 when I looked him in the eye,

I’d known him all my life.


From “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard

The first thing I remember knowing,

Was a lonesome whistle blowing,

And a young un’s dream of growing up to ride;

On a freight train leaving town,

Not knowing where I’m bound,

No-one could change my mind
but Mama tried.


A Dialogue of Watching by Kenneth Rexroth

Let me celebrate you.
 Have never known anyone

More beautiful than you.
 Walking beside you, watching

You move beside me, watching

That still grace of hand and thigh,

Watching your face change with words

You do not say, watching your

Solemn eyes as they turn to me,

Or turn inward, full of knowing,

Slow or quick, watching your full

Lips part and smile or turn grave,

Watching your narrow waist, your

Proud buttocks in their grace, like

A sailing swan, an animal,

Free, your own, and never

To be subjugated, but

Abandoned, as I am to you,

Overhearing your perfect

Speech of motion, of love and

Trust and security as

You feed or play with our children. 
I have never known any

One more beautiful than you.


Changing Diapers by Gary Snyder

How intelligent he looks!
on his back
both feet caught in my one hand
his glance set sideways,
on a giant poster of Geronimo
with a Sharp’s repeating rifle by his knee.

I open, wipe, he doesn’t even notice
nor do I.
Baby legs and knees
toes like little peas
little wrinkles, good-to-eat,
eyes bright, shiny ears,
chest swelling drawing air,

No trouble, friend,
you and me and Geronimo
are men.


Bearhug by Michael Ondaatje

Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight

I yell ok.
Finish something I’m doing,

then something else,
walk slowly round 
the corner to my son’s room.

He is standing arms outstretched 
waiting for a bearhug.

Why do I give my emotion an animal’s name,

give it that dark squeeze of death?

This is the hug which collects
 all his small bones
and his warm neck against me.

The thin tough body under the pyjamas

locks to me like a magnet of blood.

How long was he standing there 
like that,
before I came?


Only Years by Kenneth Rexroth

I come back to the cottage in 
Santa Monica
Canyon where 
Andrée and I were poor and

Happy together. Sometimes we

Were hungry and stole vegetables

From the neighbors’ gardens.

Sometimes we went out and gathered

Cigarette butts by flashlight.

But we went swimming every day,

All year round.
We had a dog

Called Proclus, a vast yellow

Mongrel, and a white cat named
We had our first 
joint art show, and they began

to publish my poems in Paris.

We worked under the low umbrella

Of the acacia in the dooryard.

Now I get out of the car

And stand before the house in the dusk.

The acacia blossoms powder the walk

With little pills of gold wool.

The odor is drowsy and thick

In the early evening.

The tree has grown twice as high

As the roof. Inside, an old man

And woman sit in the lamplight.

I go back and drive away

To Malibu Beach and sit

With a grey-haired childhood friend and

Watch the full moon rise over the

Long rollers wrinkling the dark bay


The Loft by Richard Jones

I lay on her bed
while she opened windows
so we could see the river
and the factories beyond.
Afternoon light falling
beautifully into the room,
she burned candles,
incense, talking quietly
as I listened - I, who conspired
to make this happen,
weaving a web of words that held
this moment at its center.
What could I say now?
That I am a man empty of desire?
She stood beside the bed, looking down at me
as if she were dreaming, as if I were a dream,
as if she too had come to the final shore of longing.
I lay, calm as a lake reflecting the nothingness
of late summer sky.
Then she spoke-
she said my name-
and I, who did no love her,
opened my arms.


Nostalgia by Billy Collins

Remember the 1340s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage. We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.
Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.
We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.
These days language seems transparent, a badly broken code.

The 1790s will never come again. Childhood was big.
People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.
Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.
We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.
It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.
Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.
And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.
I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.
I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.


Get up by Stephen Balut

In my dream this morning

I wrote a poem

Not a bunch of words
 thrown together
some unknown message

incoherent or nebulous

each word joined the next
fluid and lucid
every pertinent detail
perfectly tuned
powerful and true
I woke to this realization


and then forgot every word


The life of a Day by Tom Hennen

Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has
its own personality quirks which can easily be seen
if you look closely. But there are so few days as
compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it
would be surprising if a day were not a hundred
times more interesting that most people. But
usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless
they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red
maple trees and hazy sunlight,, or if they are grimly
awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost
traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason
we like to see days pass, even though most of us
claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a
long time. We examine each day before us with
barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been
looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for
the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will
start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well-adjusted,
as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade,
and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture
of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves,
and the faint odor of last night’s meandering skunk.


What Have I Got to Complain About by David Budbill

We’ve got enough money now not to worry every minute
about where the next dollar is coming from.
We even go to the movies once in a while.
We’ve got a nice collection of friends.
Our house is sturdy and well built.
It keeps us warm and stands well against the storms.
The larder is full of rice.
There are plenty of potatoes down cellar.
The freezer is full of vegetables I grew myself.

In the face of all that, slights to my vanity
seem frivolous and nonsensical.

What have I got to complain about?


The Woodcutter Changes His Mind by David Budbill

When I was young, I cut the bigger, older trees for firewood, the ones
with heart rot, dead and broken branches, the crippled and deformed

ones, because, I reasoned, they were going to fall soon anyway, and
therefore, I should give the younger trees more light and room to grow.

Now I’m older and I cut the younger, strong and sturdy, solid
and beautiful trees, and I let the older ones have a few more years

of light and water and leaf in the forest they have known so long.
Soon enough they will be prostrate on the ground.


Nightclub by Billy collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don’t hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else’s can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o’clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.


I Meant To Do My Work Today
by Richard LeGallienne

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?


Just to Feel Human by James Tate

A single apple grew on our tree, which
was some kind of miracle because it was a
pear tree. We walked around it scratching
our heads. “You want to eat it?” I asked
my wife. “I’d die first,” she replied. We
went back into the house. I stood by the
kitchen window and stared at it. I thought
of Adam and Eve, but I didn’t believe in Adam
and Eve. My wife said, “If you don’t stop
staring at that stupid apple I’m going to go
out there and eat it.” “So go,” I said, “but
take your clothes off first, go naked.” She
looked at me as if I were insane, and then
she started to undress, and so did I.


Dilemma by David Budbill

I want to be
so I can be
What good is my
when I am stuck
in this


Looking at the sky by Anne Porter

I never will have time
I never will have time enough
To say
How beautiful it is
The way the moon
Floats in the air
As easily
And lightly as a bird
Although she is a world
Made all of stone

I never will have time enough
To praise
The way the stars
Hang glittering in the dark
Of steepest heaven
Their dewy sparks
Their brimming drops of light
So fresh so clear
That when you look at them
It quenches thirst.