Category Archives: Poetry

Great Art

Great Art
Tim Dlugos – 1950-1990

for Donald Grace

Underneath your skin, your heart
moves. Your chest
rises at its touch. A small bump
appears, every
second. We watch for what appears
to be hours.

Our hands log the time: the soft
light, darkness
underneath your eyes. Our bodies
intersect like highways
with limitless access and perfect spans
of attention.

We pay for this later. I pay
for breakfast. We
can’t stay long. We take off
to the museum
and watch the individual colors
as they surface

in the late works of Matisse.
They move the way
your heart moves, the way we breathe.
You draw your own
breath, then I draw mine. This is
truly great art.


Vows (for a gay wedding)

Vows (for a gay wedding)
Joseph O. Legaspi

What was unforeseen is now a bird orbiting this field.

What wasn’t a possibility is present in our arms.

It shall be and it begins with you.

Our often-misunderstood kind of love deems dangerous.
How it frightens and confounds and enrages.
How strange, unfamiliar.

Our love carries all those and the contrary.
It is most incandescent.

So, I vow to be brave.
Clear a path through jungles of shame and doubt and fear.
I’m done with silence. I proclaim.

It shall be and it sings from within.

Truly we are enraptured
With Whitmanesque urge and urgency.

I vow to love in all seasons.
When you’re summer, I’m watermelon balled up in a sky-blue bowl.
When I’m autumn, you’re foliage ablaze in New England.
When in winter, I am the tender scarf of warm mercies.
When in spring, you are the bourgeoning buds.

I vow to love you in all places.
High plains, prairies, hills and lowlands.
In our dream-laden bed,
Cradled in the nest
Of your neck.
Deep in the plum.

It shall be and it flows with you.

We’ll leap over the waters and barbaric rooftops.

You embrace my resilient metropolis.
I adore your nourishing wilderness.

I vow to love you in primal ways.
I vow to love you in infinite forms.

In our separateness and composites.
To dust and stars and the ever after.

Intrepid travelers, lovers, and family
We have arrived.

Look. The bird has come home to roost.

From Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the author.


D-Day

I must return
I must go back to Normandy
to look out upon the sea,
Where once a great armada
carried troops, including me.

I must go back to Omaha
to walk along the shore,
and let my mind go back in time
to when there was a war.

When I go back I know I’ll mourn,
and shed some tears and feel the pain.
But I must go back and reminisce,
and think, and pray for those who there remain.

For they, too, were out upon that sea,
and then they died in Normandy.
Now from their graves above the shore,
they’ll keep their watch out on that sea, forever more.

I must go back to Normandy,
and, with them, once more,
look out upon that sea.

Sergeant Frank J. Wawrynovic landed on Omaha Brach on D-Day with C Company of the First Battalion, 115th Regiment, 29th Division. On June 17, he was wounded while scouting ahead of the American line in an orchard near the Norman city of St. Lô. He was evacuated, hospitalized for nearly two years, and discharged with a medical disability. After the war he returned to school and had a successful business career. Over the years he and his wife, Stella, gave very generous support to a variety of charities and non-profit organizations, including Normandy Allies. Many years after the war, his thoughts returned to that episode, leading him to write the poem shown above. He died in 2005, and his wife followed him in 2013.

D-Day occurred 73 years ago today and led to the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s Nazi regime.


[To find a kiss of yours]

[To find a kiss of yours]
Federico García Lorca – 1898-1936
translated by Sarah Arvio

To find a kiss of yours
what would I give
A kiss that strayed from your lips
dead to love

My lips taste
the dirt of shadows

To gaze at your dark eyes
what would I give
Dawns of rainbow garnet
fanning open before God—

The stars blinded them
one morning in May

And to kiss your pure thighs
what would I give
Raw rose crystal
sediment of the sun

*

[Por encontrar un beso tuyo]
Por encontrar un beso tuyo,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Un beso errante de tu boca
muerta para el amor!

(Tierra de sombra
come mi boca.)

Por contemplar tus ojos negros,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Auroras de carbunclos irisados
abiertas frente a Dios!

(Las estrellas los cegaron
una mañana de mayo.)

Y por besar tus muslos castos,
¿qué daría yo?
(Cristal de rosa primitiva,
sedimento de sol.)

Translation copyright © 2017 by Sarah Arvio. Original text copyright © The Estate of Federico García Lorca. From Poet in Spain (Knopf, 2017). Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About This Poem

“‘[To find a kiss of yours]’ is an untitled poem from an undated manuscript by Federico García Lorca. Though the style matches that of the young poet, what is unusual for that time is the erotic frankness—embedded in strange and striking imagery—that is a feature of Lorca’s late great work.”
—Sarah Arvio


Before Quiet

Before Quiet
by Hazel Hall

I will think of water-lilies
Growing in a darkened pool,
And my breath shall move like water,
And my hands be limp and cool.

It shall be as though I waited
In a wooden place alone;
I will learn the peace of lilies
And will take it for my own.

If a twinge of thought, if yearning
Come like wind into this place,
I will bear it like the shadow
Of a leaf across my face.


Ten Thousand Texas Rangers

Ten Thousand Texas Rangers

by Alice Corbin (Henderson) from Songs of the Cowboys, 1921

Ten thousand Texas Rangers are laughin’ fit to kill
At the joke of the German Kaiser, an’ his fierce, imperious will —
For he sez, sez he, to the Mexican boob, hidin’ behind his beard,
“Old Uncle Sam is an easy mark, or so I’ve always heerd —

“Go up and take his cattle, and take a state or two, —
Texas, New Mexico, Arizone — don’t stop before you’re through;
For we shall make war together, and together make peace,” he said,
Now ain’t it a joke — so easy-like — as easy as makin’ bread!

Now if he had wanted a gun-man, he could n’t have chose a worse,
For Pancho Villa has gor more knack in fixin’ a man for the hearse,
And if he had though that a gun-man could swipe that piece of earth,
He should ‘a’ remembered we got the trick of handlin’ a gun from birth!

Ten thousand Texas Rangers are shakin’ with wicked glee
At the joke of the German Kaiser in his fierce perplexity;
They are bustin’ their buttins with laughin’, they are laughin’ fit to kill —
“By Gawd,” sez they, “But that’s one on him, by Gawd, that’s one on Bill!”

Written in March, 1917, at the time when Germany proposed to Mexico that they retake the “lost provinces” of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.


Trees

Trees
Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


The Wound Before the Tomb of Walt Whitman

The Wound Before the Tomb of Walt Whitman

Fernando Valverde
Translated by Carolyn Forché

You who saw the vast oceans
and the peaks of the mountains,
who communed with all the sailors of the world
and you who saw Christ eat the bread of his last supper among the
young
and the elders,
you who saw the executioner of Europe
with his ax soaked with blood,
You stepped on the scaffold
and the fields in which mothers cried to their dead children.

Tell me if it is still
possible to announce triumphant justice
and deliver the lessons of the new world.

I’m going to kiss your lips,
they are cold and taste like the word America.

About This Poem

“Great Again. How to recover the greatness. Adjectives are circumstantial, but the nouns are chests that keep safe the essence of things, their moral dimension. What is America? This is the big question. What is the America that we want? Does a unique America like the one Whitman imagined exist? What is the great America that the slogans refer to? Is it the America of Walt Whitman or Charles Whitman? Is it the America of the person who shot a rifle from the sixth floor of the Book Depository in Dallas or the America of the one who received the bullet?”
—Fernando Valverde

Fernando Valverde

Fernando Valverde is author of several poetry collections, including The Insistence of Harm (University Press of Florida, 2019) and Poesia (1997-2017) (Visor, 2017). His work has been translated into several languages, and he is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia. He lives in Charlottesville, North Carolina.

Carolyn Forche

Carolyn Forché is the author of What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance (Penguin Press, 2019). She is a University Professor at Georgetown University.


Why I Love Thee!

Why I Love Thee?
by Sadakichi Hartmann

Why I love thee?
Ask why the seawind wanders,
Why the shore is aflush with the tide,
Why the moon through heaven meanders
Like seafaring ships that ride
On a sullen, motionless deep;
Why the seabirds are fluttering the strand
Where the waves sing themselves to sleep
And starshine lives in the curves of the sand!


Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
byTimothy Thomas Fortune

I know not why, but it is true—it may,
In some way, be because he was a child
Of the fierce sun where I first wept and smiled—
I love the dark-browed Poe. His feverish day
Was spent in dreams inspired, that him beguiled,
When not along his path shone forth one ray
Of light, of hope, to guide him on the way,
That to earth’s cares he might be reconciled.
Not one of all Columbia’s tuneful choir
Has pitched his notes to such a matchless key
As Poe—the wizard of the Orphic lyre!
Not one has dreamed, has sung, such songs as he,
Who, like an echo came, an echo went,
Singing, back to his mother element.


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