National Poetry Month 2016: April 25th, Li-Young Lee

Little Father

By Li-Young Lee

I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
every night.

I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,
my little root who won’t drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.

Source material from the Academy of American Poets.

Lylee

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 24th, Ogden Nash

Old Men

By Ogden Nash

People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when…
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.

Source material from All Poetry.

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 23rd, Willy Shakes

To me, fair friend, you never can be old (Sonnet 104)

By William Shakespeare

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d:

For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 22nd, Eileen Myles

Choke

Eileen Myles

Of all the ways of forgetting
not turning the pilot on is not
the worst

The house is intact
you are floating
in time
buckets of it streaming through
the windows

youth turned it up I think
or on & fell asleep

Remembering to do.
You are too intact
the dappled sunlight on the lawn
or pots of darkness
like salt instead of depths

Still once I turned it up
the popping commenced
like applause for the present
tense
the site of my sway

Larry’s new car is wide & safe
a woman’s voice conducts
us left & right
she’s crazy he laughs
again & again

my shrink said buy it now
about the car

I told him about my phenomenal streak
of winning & when the stakes
rose I began to bid low &
not at all
I could have won; you choked
he said.

Woof. To not choke
is I suppose to experience
to hold it in & go forth
though you need the heat

The sun had not done more
suddenly for a while

it’s like we took off our skin
and said it is hot.
It’s like we sold our skin
& said where did everyone go?

when the weather’s too hot for comfort
& we can’t have ice-cream cones
it ain’t no sin
to take off your skin
& dance around in your bones

Source material from the Academy of American Poets.

Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 21st, Audre Lorde

Coal

By Audre Lorde

I
Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth’s inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.

Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Some words
Bedevil me.

Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth’s inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.

Source material from the Poetry Foundation.

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 20th, Peter Balakian

A Letter to Wallace Stevens

By Peter Balakian

1

After the Reformation had settled the loamy soil
and the lettuce-green fields of dollars,
the clouds drifted away, and light fell everywhere.
Even the snow bloomed and New Hampshire was a big peony.

A red barn shone on a hill
with scattered hemlocks and white pines
and the gates of all the picket fences were big shut-eyes.

2

Sometime after the Civil War, the bronze wing of liberty
took off like the ribboning smoke of a Frick factory,
and all the citizens in towns from Stockbridge to Willamette
ran wild on the 4th. The sound of piccolos lingered,
and the shiny nickel of the sun stood still before it
fizzed in the windshield of a Ford.
By then you were a lawyer.

3

Charles Ives was a bandmaster in Danbury, and you didn’t
give him the time of day. He played shortstop on the piano.
He never made it to his tonic home base, and his half-tones
were like oak leaves slapping clapboard.

4

How Miltonic are we anyway?

5

In that red glass of the imagination,
in that tingling crystal of the chandelier
where light freezes in its own prism

and the apogee of the green lawns of New Haven
wane like Persian carpets in twilight,
there you saw a pitcher, perhaps from Delft,
next to a plate of mangoes.

6

But still, history is a boomerang,
and the aborigines never threw one without a shield.

7

Beyond the porches of Key West, beyond the bougainvillea,
your speech skipped on tepid waves,
was lapped and lapped by lovers and friends,
by scholars who loved romantic nights of the sun.

But the fruits and pendants, the colorful cloth,
the dry palm fronds, and the fake voodoo wood
Cortes brought back as souvenirs
were just souvenirs. And the shacks and the cane and the
hacked plantain were tableaux,
and who saw them from your dark shore?

8

The Protestant dinner plate is a segregated place,
where the steak hardens, and the peas
sit frightened in their corner while mashed potatoes ossify.
Some gin and ice cream, and the terror of loneliness
goes for a while.

9

As they say in the sunny climes,
un abrazo.

Source material from the Poetry Foundation.

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National Poetry Month 2016: April 19th, Dana Gilmore

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