Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Please Marry Me

"Please marry me. Your mother likes me."
-Line spoken by an unknown woman, in a dream

We are stretched out on a dingy sofa, and I think
I must be barefoot because a woman whom no one knows
Is massaging the ankle of one leg of mine and the instep
Of the other, all this toward morning, and I have that
Occasional epiphany one has while still asleep
That I am floating down a river
Because I am so happy and all the dismal issues
Have been made tractable at last, and so I say to her
That the late symphonies of Gustav Mahler
Are more lucid if you're sitting close to, and above,
The orchestra, so that you can see the contrapuntal
Lines moving from strings to woodwinds
And then back again, whereupon this woman,
Sitting (I now realize) at my feet, says, in the full
Heat of our dream life, and in that happiness,
"Please marry me. Your mother likes me,"
And so I wake, not laughing, although my mother

Has been dead for over thirty years, but in wonderment
Over what quality this dream-woman must have owned
To have pleased my mother so that she,
My late mother, would have said, despite her ban
On ordinary pleasantries, that she had liked someone,
Anyone, who might have cared for me, and as I lie
In bed I think of the last movement of Mahler's Ninth
When the melodic lines go quiet for minute after minute
In a prolonged farewell to music and to life,
Which my mother would attend to in her bathrobe
Late at night, the stereo turned up, blended whiskey
In her highball glass mixed with milk as a disguise,
Leaning back, hand over eyes, silent-movie style
Like Norma Desmond listening as Von Stroheim plays
The organ wearing his white gloves. No, it wasn't
Mahler, it was Schoenberg, Verklarte Nacht,
Moon-drunk music, mad and inconsolable.

-Charles Baxter

**this poem was made even better when i looked up who Norma Desmond and Von Stroheim mean in this context. as, i'm sure, knowing mahler or schoenburg would turn up my appreciation even more**

Monday, December 13, 2010

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

-Marie Howe

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Loneliest Job in the World

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

-Tony Hoagland
from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Book of Music

Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.

-Jack Spicer

*oh, this poem for so many reasons today. not least of which is the way it chimes with a discussion from yesterday's linguistics class about present progressive in english (bear with me here): how never before mcdonalds could an english speaker say 'i am loving', as love in english is a perfect verb - you either do or you don't love, but you're never in the process of loving. and how big macs changed all of that. and how, yes, the rest of us will remain/two persons. yes*

Monday, December 6, 2010

Love Poem With Toast

Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.

The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something,
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.

With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward,
wanting to be wanted,
wanting not to lose the rain forest,
wanting the water to boil,
wanting not to have cancer,
wanting to be home by dark,
wanting not to run out of gas,

as each of us wants the other
watching at the end,
as both want not to leave the other alone,
as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,
we gaze across breakfast and pretend.

-Miller Williams

Sunday, November 28, 2010


There’s nothing that I really want:
The stars tonight are rich and cold
Above my house that vaguely broods
Upon a path soon lost in dark.

My dinner plate is chipped all round
(It tells me that I’ve changed a lot);
My glass is cracked all down one side
(It shows there is a path for me).

My hands—I rest my head on them.
My eyes—I rest my mind on them.
There’s nothing that I really need
Before I set out on that path.

-Kevin Hart

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."

Look what happens with a love like that -
it lights the whole world.