(no subject)

SNOW: I
by C.K. Williams


All night, snow, then, near dawn, freezing rain, so that by morn-
ing the whole city glistens
in a glaze of high-pitched, meticulously polished brilliance, every,
thing rounded off,
the cars submerged nearly to their windows in the unbroken drifts
lining the narrow alleys,
the buildings rising from the trunklike integuments the wind has
against them.
Underlit clouds, blurred, violet bars, the rearguard of the storm,
still hang in the east,
immobile over the flat river basin of the Delaware; beyond them,
nothing, the washed sky,
one vivid wisp of pale smoke rising waveringly but emphatically
into the brilliant ether.
No one is out yet but Catherine, who closes the door behind her
and starts up the street.

(no subject)

Music
by Anne Porter

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.
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(no subject)

Winter: Tonight: Sunset
by David Budbill

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.

I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
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(no subject)

For Maia
by Gary Johnson


A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some
troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the
sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels hovering overhead?
Hark.

(no subject)

The Guardians
by Jill Bialosky

All day we packed boxes.
We read birth and death certificates.
The yellowed telegrams that announced
our births, the cards of congratulations
and condolences, the deeds and debts,
love letters, valentines with a heart
ripped out, the obituaries.
We opened the divorce decree,
a terrible document of division and subtraction.
We leafed through scrapbooks:
corsages, matchbooks, programs to the ballet,
racetrack, theater—joy and frivolity
parceled in one volume—
painstakingly arranged, preserved
and pasted with crusted glue.
We sat in the room in which the beloved
had departed. We remembered her yellow hair
and her mind free of paradox.
We sat together side by side
on the empty floor and did not speak.
There were no words
between us other than the essence
of the words from the correspondences,
our inheritance—plain speak,
bereft of poetry.
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(no subject)

Recognitions
by Stephen Dobyns

The awful imbalance that occurs with age
when you suddenly see that more friends

have died, than remain alive. And at times
their memory seems so real that the latest

realization of a death can become a second,
smaller death. All those talks cut off in midsentence.

All those plans tossed in the trash.
What can you do but sit out on the porch

when evening comes? The day’s last light
reddens the leaves of the copper beach.

(no subject)

What is Supposed to Happen
by Naomi Shihab Nye

When you were small,
we watched you sleeping,
waves of breath
filling your chest.
Sometimes we hid behind
the wall of baby, soft cradle
of baby needs.
I loved carrying you between
my own body and the world.

Now you are sharpening pencils,
entering the forest of
lunch boxes, little desks.
People I never saw before
call out your name
and you wave.

This loss I feel,
this shrinking,
as your field of roses
grows and grows….

Now I understand history.
Now I understand my mother’s
ancient eyes.

(no subject)

Bringing In the Sheaves
by Jo McDougall

It’s 1945. The crops laid by
in October if he was lucky,
by Thanksgiving if not,
my father would throw his hat into the threshing machine
with the final shock of rice
from the final field.
That one moment of the year
he was jubilant, cocky even,
winning out
over creditors and blackbirds and rot.
Then the December rains,
the hunger for rattling machinery,
for sweat, for missing crews—
wasted months of accounting and tinkering.
He would have cut off his thumb and buried it,
had he thought that would hasten spring.
Then, spring—
when, laying his plow to the insolent dirt,
he began again.

(no subject)

Toward the Solstice
by Mark Perlberg

We burned our leaves on the bluest October day,
the sun still warm on our backs,
frost just a ghost in the shrubbery.
We raked the leaves into shifting piles on the lawn,
scooped them into deep round baskets
and spilled them in the street against the curb.
The vein of fire, unseen at first in diamond light,
whispered through oak leaves brown as butcher paper,
and maple still flushed with color like maps
torn from The Book of Knowledge.
We were letting go of October, relinquishing color,
readying ourselves for streets lacquered with ice,
the town closed like a walnut, locked inside the cold.