Billy Collins On “I Love You”

e5c029c9-36ca-4a37-93ba-f90f0e1e0d42Billy Collins (March 22, 1941 -)

Early on, I noticed that you always say it
to each of your children
as you are getting off the phone with them
just as you never fail to say it
to me whenever we arrive at the end of a call.
It’s all new to this only child.
I never heard my parents say it,
at least not on such a regular basis,
nor did it ever occur to me to miss it.
To say I love you pretty much every day
would have seemed strangely obvious,
like saying I’m looking at you
when you are standing there looking at someone.
If my parents had started saying it
a lot, I would have started to worry about them.
Of course, I always like hearing it from you.
That is never a cause for concern.
The problem is I now find myself saying it back
if only because just saying good-bye
then hanging up would make me seem discourteous.
“But like Bartleby, I would prefer not to
say it so often, would prefer instead to save it
for special occasions, like shouting it out as I leaped
into the red mouth of a volcano
with you standing helplessly on the smoking rim,
or while we are desperately clasping hands
before our plane plunges into the Gulf of Mexico,
which are only two of the examples I had in mind,
but enough, as it turns out, to make me
want to say it to you right now,
and what better place than in the final couplet
of a poem where, as every student knows, it really counts.”

Yusef Komunyakaa On Poetry


1B7D07B9-1496-4CBD-A6F5-880C019CEF7EYusef Komunyakaa
(April 29, 1941 -)

Attempt to write every day, to read everything, to listen, to be in the world, to challenge ideas and to question ourselves. Because it’s not just poetry; it’s the experience of inquiry…

Be aware of the small things in the world, not necessarily the monumental things. The small things add up to a monumental reality.

Léo Dangel On Memoriam

9BE90FAE-D426-4C04-BF81-ED512BAF3A09Leo Dangel (1941 – 2016)

In the early afternoon my mother
was doing the dishes. I climbed
onto the kitchen table, I suppose
to play, and fell asleep there.
I was drowsy and awake, though,
as she lifted me up, carried me
on her arms into the living room,
and placed me on the davenport,
but I pretended to be asleep
the whole time, enjoying the luxury—
I was too big for such a privilege
and just old enough to form
my only memory of her carrying me.
She’s still moving me to a softer place.

Barbara Ras On You Can’t Have It All

2D5B7F0A-E375-47A7-B121-042CA53BBF5BBarbara Ras (1949 -)

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
Of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it be August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam’s twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s.
It will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.

Nina Bogin On Initiation

58501DC0-6E0B-4504-85B3-223BA6E3E3CBNina Bogin (January 02, 1954 -)

At the crossroads, hens scratched circles
into the white dust. There was a shop
where I bought coffee and eggs, coarse-grained
chocolate almost too sweet to eat.
When I walked up the road, the string sack
heavy on my arm, I thought
that my legs could take me anywhere,
into any country, any life.
The air, dazzling as sand, grew dense
with light: bougainvillea spilled
over the salmon walls, the road
veered into the ravine. The world
could be those colors, the mangoes,
the melons, the avocado evenings
releasing their circles of moon.
I climbed the pink stairs, entered
the house as calm and ephemeral
as my own certainty:
this is my house, my key,
my hand with its new lines.
I am as old as I will ever be.

Robert Graves On Flying Crooked

8C5FF87B-63A4-4CC1-841A-90674724975CRobert von Ranke Graves (July 24, 1895 – December 07, 1985)

The butterfly, the cabbage white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has — who knows so well as I? —
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

Louise Gluck On Walking At Night

7da4c-img_2282Louise Gluck (April 22, 1943 -)

Now that she is old,
the young men don’t approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.

By midnight, the town’s quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.

When they pass, they don’t notice her.
She’s like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.

When she’s tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.

The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river’s grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank’s deserted–

There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after a while, they made their way into the woods
where it’s always twilight–

The woods would be empty now–
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.

In the river, there’s just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the grey stones. The moon’s bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river’s edge.

When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn’t seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost–

On nights like this, she’ll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had
as a young woman, glistening under the light summer clothing.