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Did you know April is National Poetry Month?

And I, self-proclaimed poetry geek, have not posted a single poem. In recognition of the hour and a half left in April, here are five of my current favorites.

Curiosity by Alastair Reid

may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die--
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.

Only the curious have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.




My Easy God is Gone by James Kavanaugh

I have lost my easy God – the one whose name
I knew since childhood.
I knew his temper, his sullen outrage,
his ritual forgiveness.
I knew the strength of his arm, the sound
of his insistent voice.
His beard bristling, his lips full and red
with moisture at the moustache,
His eyes clear and piercing, too blue
to understand all,
His face too unwrinkled to feel my
child’s pain.
He was a good God – so he told me -
a long suffering and manageable one.
I knelt at his feet and kissed them.
I felt the smooth countenance of his forgiveness.

I never told him how he frightened me,
How he followed me as a child,
When I played with friends or begged
for candy on Halloween.
He was a predictable God, I was the
unpredictable one.
He was unchanging, omnipotent, all-seeing,
I was volatile and helpless.

He taught me to thank him for the concern
which gave me no chance to breathe,
For the love which demanded only love in
return – and obedience.
He made pain sensible and patience possible
and the future foreseeable.
He, the mysterious, took all mystery away,
corroded my imagination,
Controlled the stars and would not let
them speak for themselves.

Now he haunts me seldom: some fierce
umbilical is broken,
I live with my own fragile hopes and
sudden rising despair.
Now I do not weep for my sins; I have
learned to love them.
And to know that they are the wounds that
make love real.
His face eludes me; his voice, with all
its pity, does not ring in my ear.
His maxims memorized in boyhood do not
make fruitless and pointless my experience.
I walk alone, but not so terrified as when
he held my hand.

I do not splash in the blood of his son
nor hear the crunch of nails or thorns
piercing protesting flesh.
I am a boy again – I whose boyhood was
turned to manhood in a brutal myth.
Now wine is only wine with drops that do
not taste of blood.
The bread I eat has too much pride for transubstantiation,
I, too – and together the bread and I embrace,
Each grateful to be what we are, each loving
from our own reality.
Now the bread is warm in my mouth and
I am warm in its mouth as well.

Now my easy God is gone – he knew too
much to be real,
He talked too much to listen, he knew
my words before I spoke.
But I knew his answers as well – computerized
and turned to dogma.
His stamp was on my soul, his law locked
cross-like on my heart,
His imperatives tattooed on my breast, his
aloofness canonized in ritual.

Now he is gone – my easy, stuffy God – God,
the father – master, the mother – whiner, the
Dull, whoring God who offered love bought
by an infant’s fear.
Now the world is mine with all its pain and
warmth, with its every color and sound;
The setting sun is my priest with the ocean for it’s alter.
The rising sun redeems me with rolling
waves warmed in its arms.
A dog barks and I weep to be alive, a
cat studies me and my job is boundless.
I lie on the grass and boy-like, search the sky.
The clouds do not turn to angels, the winds
do not whisper of heaven or hell.

Perhaps I have no God – what does it matter?
I have beauty and joy and transcending loneliness,
I have the beginning of love – as beautiful as it
is feeble – as free as it is human.
I have the mountains that whisper secrets
held before men could speak,
I have the oceans that belches life on
the beach and caresses it in the sand,
I have a friend who smiles when he sees
me, who weeps when he hears my pain,
I have a future of wonder.
I have no past – the steps have disappeared
the wind has blown them away.

I stand in the Heavens and on earth, I
feel the breeze in my hair,
I can drink to the North Star and shout
on a bar stool,
I can feel the teeth of a hangover, the
joy of laziness,
The flush of my own rudeness, the surge of
my own ineptitude.
And I can know my own gentleness as well
my wonder, my nobility.
I sense the call of creation, I feel its
swelling in my hands.
I can lust and love, eat and drink, sleep
and rise,
But my easy God is gone – and in his stead
The mystery of loneliness and love!




For a Five-Year-Old by Fleur Adcock

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
it might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful hand,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still by words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
your closest relatives, and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to many another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.




At the Arraignment by Debra Spencer

The courtroom walls are bare and the prisoner wears
a plastic bracelet, like in a hospital. Jesus stands beside him.
The bailiff hands the prisoner a clipboard and he puts his
thumbprint on the sheet of white paper. The judge asks,

What is your monthly income? A hundred dollars.
How do you support yourself? As a carpenter, odd jobs.
Where are you living? My friend's garage.
What sort of vehicle do you drive? I take the bus.
How do you plead? Not guilty. The judge sets bail
and a date for the prisoner's trial, calls for the interpreter
so he may speak to the next prisoners.
In a good month I eat, the third one tells him.
In a bad month I break the law.

The judge sighs. The prisoners
are led back to jail with a clink of chains.
Jesus goes with them. More prisoners
are brought before the judge.

Jesus returns and leans against the wall near us,
gazing around the courtroom. The interpreter reads a book.
The bailiff, weighed down by his gun, stands
with arms folded, alert and watchful.
We are only spectators, careful to speak
in low voices. We are so many. If we—make a sound,
the bailiff turns toward us, looking stern.

The judge sets bail and dates for other trials,
bringing his gavel down like a little axe.
Jesus turns to us. If you won't help them, he says
then do this for me. Dress in silks and jewels,
and then go naked. Be stoic, and then be prodigal.
Lead exemplary lives, then go down into prison
and be bound in chains. Which of us has never broken a law?
I died for you-a desperate extravagance, even for me.
If you can't be merciful, at least be bold.


The judge gets up to leave.

The stern bailiff cries, All rise.




All That Time by May Swenson

I saw two trees embracing.
One leaned on the other
as if to throw her down.
But she was the upright one.
Since their twin youth, maybe she
had been pulling him toward her
all that time,

and finally almost uprooted him.
He was the thin, dry, insecure one,
the most wind-warped, you could see.
And where their tops tangled
it looked like he was crying
on her shoulder.
On the other hand, maybe he

had been trying to weaken her,
break her, or at least
make her bend
over backwards for him
just a little bit.
And all that time
she was standing up to him

the best she could.
She was the most stubborn,
the straightest one, that's a fact.
But he had been willing
to change himself--
even if it was for the worse--
all that time.

At the top they looked like one
tree, where they were embracing.
It was plain they'd be
always together.
Too late now to part.
When the wind blew, you could hear
them rubbing on each other.

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August 2010

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