“Darling,” he said, “we don’t have money enough
for a turkey.” “Nor cranberries or stuffing bread,”
she said. “Well, we could always boil some potatoes
and mash them with a fork.” “That would be lovely.”
“Though we haven’t any butter or milk to make them
creamy the way you like.” “Let us give thanks, then,
“And darling,” he said, “we haven’t money enough
to give each other gifts for Chanukah or Christmas.”
“Is there still no work?” “Still no work.” “Oh no.”
“Well, we’ve made the rent and we have a bed.”
“And it’s cold and rainy, and soon there will be snow
and no work.” “Let us feast on each other, then.”
“Poetry in my view is a defense of the individual against all the forces arrayed against him. ” — Charles Simic
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by Ruth Stone
I remember a Harvard student,
who couldn’t admit to himself
that he was gay,
suddenly one day
he was a lampshade.
He was so convinced
he tried to stick his fingers
into wall sockets.
The ambulance squad
wrapped him in a straitjacket
and drove him away.
Somewhere he may be lighting
he is still a lampshade,
perhaps pressed tight
upon a hot bulb,
perhaps accordion pleated—
as they used to be—
in the opulent fifties
after the second World War,
when factories turned
back to confetti
and women took off
he only wanted
to love some man—
who knows who?
And speaking of real sin,
we had just dropped
that bomb on Japan
was two miles high—
just dust in the blue.
by Kim Addonizio
Listen. I’m trying to tell you
how easily the poem you thought
was a beautiful woman becomes
cronelike by a kind of witchery.
How easy, you thought, to write a poem:
you scrawled last night in your journal
and in the morning, by a kind of witchery,
the poem was born, perfect, immortal.
But soon, too soon, what you scrawled in your journal
begins moaning, pitches forward and wails, hating
itself, the fact that it was ever born—imperfect, mortal
and suffering the way everything suffers,
every moaning lover, every wailing child,
each creature destined to be isolate and alone
and suffering the way everything suffers,
but I said that, didn’t I, explained already about suffering
and about each one of you, destined to be isolate and alone
because writing is lonely work, is what I’m trying to say,
did I say that, did I explain already? I’m suffering
through your poems, and my own, oh God I feel
so desperately lonely is what I’m trying to say,
look at you you’re so young all of you,
I don’t care about your poems, or my own,
do you know how fast it goes, all I want is to be
as young as all of you, look at you
you’re so fucking clueless, oh I want
my life back, where did it go, I want it all to be
different but I’m standing here, lecturing again—
on what, on what? Oh fuck it,
listen, I was a beautiful woman,
you think I want to be standing here, lecturing? Look again.
Listen. I’m trying to tell you.
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it:
Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!"