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Poem of the Day: [mosquito at my ear]

Mosquito at my ear—
does he think
      I’m deaf?
[mosquito at my ear] by Issa, from The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited and with an introduction by Robert Hass. Copyright 1994 by Robert Hass. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho Buson and Issa(The Ecco Press, 1994)

Kobayashi Issa

Biography
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Poem of the Day: A Prayer for Rain

Let it come down: these thicknesses of air
have long enough walled love away from love;
stillness has hardened until words despair
of their high leaps and kisses shut themselves
back into wishing. Crippled lovers lie
against a weather which holds out on them,
waiting, awaiting some shrill sign, some cry,
some screaming cat that smells a sacrifice
and spells them thunder. Start the mumbling lips,
syllable by monotonous syllable,
that wash away the sullen griefs of love
and drown out knowledge of an ancient war—
o, ill-willed dark, give with the sound of rain,
let love be brought to ignorance again.
Originally appeared in the March 1964 issue of Poetry magazine.
“A Prayer for Rain” by Lisel Mueller is reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.

Source: Poetry February 2012

Lisel Mueller

Biography
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Poem of the Day: School

I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead.
It had metrics one side, inches the other.
You could see where it started
and why it stopped, a foot along,
how it ruled the flighty pen,
which petered out sideways when you dreamt.
I could have learned a lot,
understood latitude, or the border with Canada,
so stern compared to the South
and its unruly river with two names.
But that first day, meandering home, I dropped it.
Poem copyright ©2011 by Daniel J. Langton, whose most recent book of poems, During Our Walks, is forthcoming from Blue Light Press. Poem reprinted from New Letters, Vol. 77, nos. 3&4, by permission of Daniel J. Langton and the publisher.

Daniel J. Langton

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Genealogy

This stream took a shorter course—
a thread of water that makes oasis
out of mud, in pooling,
does not aspire to lake. To river, leave
the forest, the clamorous wild.
I cannot. Wherever I am,
I am here, nonsensical, rhapsodic,
stock-still as the trees. Trickling
never floods, furrows its meager path
through the forest floor.
There will always be a root
too thirsty, moss that only swallows
and spreads. Primordial home, I am dying
from love of you. Were I tuber or quillwort,
the last layer of leaves that starts the dirt
or the meekest pond,
I would absorb everything.
I would drown. Water makes song
of erratic forms, and I hear the living
push back branches, wander off trail.
Jennifer Chang, “Genealogy” from The History of Anonymity. Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Chang. Reprinted by permission of The University of Georgia Press.

Source: The History of Anonymity(University of Georgia Press, 2008)

Jennifer Chang

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Seeing the Eclipse in Maine

It started about noon.  On top of Mount Batte,   
We were all exclaiming.  Someone had a cardboard   
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun   
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.   
It was hard to believe.  The high school teacher   
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,   
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.   
And when the moon had passed partly through   
We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,   
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—   
Thousands!  Even our straw hats produced   
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.   
We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine   
Told a joke.  Suns were everywhere—at our feet.
Poem copyright © 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy, Harper Perennial, 2006. Poem reprinted from Music, Pictures, and Stories, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer.

Robert Bly

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Voyager

We’ve packed our bags, we’re set to fly
no one knows where, the maps won’t do.
We’re crossing the ocean’s nihilistic blue
with an unborn infant’s opal eye.
It has the clarity of earth and sky
seen from a spacecraft, once removed,
as through an amniotic lens, that groove-
lessness of space, the last star by.
We have set out to live and die
into the interstices of a new
nowhere to be or be returning to
(a little like an infant’s airborne cry).
We’ve set our sights on nothing left to lose
and made of loss itself a lullaby.

Source: Poetry June 2008

Todd Hearon

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Persimmons

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose
persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.
Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.
Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.
Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.
My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.
Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.
Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.
This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.
Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.
He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?
This is persimmons, Father.
Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.
Li-Young Lee, “Persimmons” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Rose(BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

Li-Young Lee

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain   
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read   
A few friends, but they are in cities.   
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup   
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
Gary Snyder, “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” from Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Gary Snyder. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press.

Source: No Nature: New and Selected Poems(1992)

Gary Snyder

Biography
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Poem of the Day: Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Source: Poems(Viking Press, 1921)

Wilfred Owen

Biography
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