To Be Alive (Gregory Orr)
To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but…
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?
What Is Poetry (Adrian Mitchell)
Look at those naked words dancing together!
Everyone’s very embarrassed.
Only one thing to do about it –
Off with your clothes
And join in the dance.
Naked words and people dancing together.
There’s going to be trouble.
Here come the Poetry Police!
Further Notice (Phillip Whalen)
I can’t live in this world
And I refuse to kill myself
Or let you kill me
The dill plant lives, the airplane
My alarm clock, this ink
I won’t go away
I shall be myself —
Free, a genius, an embarrassment
Like the Indian, the buffalo
Like Yellowstone National Park.
Untitled (Tao Lin)
In bed at 4PM
I held my pillow
and thought “oh well”
in regards to my entire life.
Ray Bradbury is Dead (Lewis Mundt)
This morning, Ray Bradbury is dead
and there is only soy milk at my coffee shop.
I do not know which to be more sad about,
that my body and I are suddenly uncomfortable
or that a man I have never met, far away,
has stopped breathing.
will end one day.
It is a miracle it’s lasted this long,
not because I have wished it otherwise,
but because my car keeps overheating.
My car is huge
compared to my heart.
A writing prompt,
given to me on a bicycle ride last week:
“What is the most dangerous thing you’ve done lately,
I climbed the Pillsbury building,
because I wanted to, because I could,
or because I was bored, or because I know how,
because I know that wearing dark blue at night
makes you look like a cloud.
Ray Bradbury’s heart is not beating anymore.
The Pillsbury building is so big
compared to his heart,
but this morning he is dead
and there is only soy milk at my coffee shop.
A Good Day (Kait Rokowski)
Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.
Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, ”My daughter got into Yale”
with, ”Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.
See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.
My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.
It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.
I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.
I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.
I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.”
I Worried (Mary Oliver)
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
Zoo (Marty McConnell)
what’s important is to know that you will one day be happy
again. happier than you were
with her, happier than has ever been possible. focus
on what makes you
happy: a hot teacup against your belly. fresh sheets.
turning up the heat
in the apartment and cleaning naked as if it is August
and everyone you love
is coming over for breakfast. you have had love, and that means
your sternum is a divining rod
for both passion and grief. because the tongue is the body’s
strongest muscle, make it say
joy. make it say I am a factory of splendid things. make it say
the octopus is the smartest animal
in the animal kingdom, and I am an octopus. I am an octopus.
I am happy. my survival
was not an accident, or purposeless. the car that could
have ended me
didn’t. the lies that could have brined my insides to bitterness
didn’t. word on the street is,
you have muscles other than the tongue. take them for a walk
in the sun…
either way, you’re an octopus. I’m an octopus. say it:
we are happy. say: it’s not so bad.
The Crowds Cheered As Gloom Galloped Away (Matthea Harvey)
Everyone was happier. But where did the sadness go? People wanted to know. They didn’t want it collecting in their elbows or knees then popping up later. The girl who thought of the ponies made a lot of money. Now a month’s supply of pills came in a hard blue case with a handle. You opened it & found the usual vial plus six tiny ponies of assorted shapes & sizes, softly breathing in the Styrofoam. Often they had to be pried out & would wobble a little when first put on the ground. In the beginning the children tried to play with them, but the sharp hooves nicked their fingers & the ponies refused to jump over pencil hurdles. The children stopped feeding them sugarwater & the ponies were left to break their legs on the gardens’ gravel paths or drown in the gutters. On the first day of the month, rats gathered on doorsteps & spat out only the bitter manes. Many a pony’s last sight was a bounding squirrel with its tail hovering over its head like a halo. Behind the movie theatre the hardier ponies gathered in packs amongst the cigarette butts, getting their hooves stuck in wads of gum. They lined the hills at funerals, huddled under folding chairs at weddings. It became a matter of pride if one of your ponies proved unusually sturdy. People would smile & say, “This would have been an awful month for me,” pointing to the glossy palomino trotting energetically around their ankles. Eventually, the ponies were no longer needed. People had learned to imagine their sadness trotting away. & when they wanted something more tangible, they could always go to the racetrack & study the larger horses’ faces. Gloom, #341, with those big black eyes, was almost sure to win.
Tulips excerpt (Clay Matthews)
I am not a dreamer like I used to be.
I don’t know if I believe in great things anymore
but that doesn’t mean great things can’t happen.
I tell myself a thousand stories about myself. I tell myself You are
a good man, you are a bad man, you are wasting your life,
you are doing something right. From one day to the next
I am in love with myself or I am looking at myself disgusted
and tired of all the bullshit I repeat to one person after another
I meet on the streets or at family gatherings, all the same things
I have said over and over and over when wanting only to say
I really don’t want to talk or I really don’t even like you
or You are my family, my friend, why are we speaking
to each other like we haven’t known each other our whole lives…
Once life was that simple, once we smiled,
once we cried, once we ran through the house naked
with no thoughts of the windows or other humans no thoughts
of the real estate market except the large expanse of a room
as it stretched out in front, thinking I bet by god I can run
all the way to the other side. Now we run away, or rather
we do not run but we turn from each other very politely,
we spend a long time at doors and sometimes I have the urge
to say something very important to someone, sometimes
it is right on my tongue and I feel like I could make their life better
just by uttering a few words because people have done this thing
for me and I want to give it back and I can sometimes see
them wanting to give it back but we do not give it back, only
a hug which is the closest we can get or care to get or know how
anymore. We are real people. All grown up now.
Tobacco Shop (Pessoa)
I’ll always be nothing.
I can’t want to be something.
But I have in me all the dreams of the world.
If They Come in the Night (Marge Piercy)
I said, I like my life. If I
have to give it back, if they
take it from me, let me
not feel I wasted any, let me
not feel I forgot to love anyone
I meant to love, that I forgot
to give what I held in my hands,
that I forgot to do some little
piece of the work that wanted
to come through.