Ten Poems, for the Ten Weeks of 2011

#1 – Wake Up, Wake Up (Rumi)

wake up, wake up
this night is gone
wake up

abandon abandon
even your dear self
abandon

there is an idiot
in our market place
selling a precious soul

if you doubt my word
get up this moment
and head for the market now

don’t listen to trickery
don’t listen to the witches
don’t wash blood with blood

first turn yourself upside down
empty yourself like a cup of wine
then fill to the brim with the essence

a voice is descending
from the heavens
a healer is coming

if you desire healing
let yourself fall ill
let yourself fall ill


#2 – The Aliens (Bukowski)

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction of distress.
they dress well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
life.
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy death, usually in their
sleep.

you may not believe
it
but such people do
exist.

but i am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
them.
but they
are there

and I am
here.

#3 – I Say, I Say, I Say (Simon Armitrage)

Anyone here had a go at themselves
for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
let’s show that inch of lacerated skin
between the forearm and the fist. Let’s tell it
like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
repeat with me the punch line ‘Just like blood’
when those at the back rush forward to say
how a little love goes a long long long way.

#4 – Now Comes the Long Blue Cold (Mary Oliver)

Now comes the long blue cold
and what shall I say but that some
bird in the tree of my heart is singing.
That same heart that only yesterday
was a room shut tight, without dreams.

Isn’t it wonderful—the cold wind and
spring in the heart inexplicable.
Darling girl. Picklock.


#5 – When You Find A Man (Kabbani)

When you find a man
Who transforms
Every part of you
Into poetry,
Who makes each one of your hairs
Into a poem,
When you find a man,
Capable,
As I am
Of bathing and adorning you
With poetry,
I will beg you
To follow him without hesitation,
It is not important
That you belong to me or him
But that you belong to poetry.


#6 – I Imagine the Gods (Jack Gilbert)

I imagine the gods saying, We will
make it up to you. We will give you
three wishes, they say. Let me see
the squirrels again, I tell them.
Let me eat some of the great hog
stuffed and roasted on its giant spit
and put out, steaming, into the winter
of my neighborhood when I was usually
too broke to afford even the hundred grams
I ate so happily walking up the cobbles,
past the Street of the Moon
and the Street of the Birdcage-Makers,
the Street of Silence and the Street
of the Little Pissing. We can give you
wisdom, they say in their rich voices.
Let me go at last to Hugette, I say,
the Algerian student with her huge eyes
who timidly invited me to her room
when I was too young and bewildered
that first year in Paris.
Let me at least fail at my life.
Think, they say patiently, we could
make you famous again. Let me fall
in love one last time, I beg them.
Teach me mortality, frighten me
into the present. Help me to find
the heft of these days. That the nights
will be full enough and my heart feral.


#7- All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter (Tolkein)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

#8- Are You Looking For Me? (Kabir)

Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues,
nor in cathedrals:
not in masses,
nor kirtans,
not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.


#9- O, Gather Me The Rose (William Ernest Henley)

O, gather me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
The memories that follow!

#10 – Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself (Wallace Stevens)

[The only thing I really like about this poem is its title, and the last line:]

It was like / A new knowledge of reality.

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