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Juan Morris the Writer

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Poem of the Day: The Death of Elvis

This lip, too, used to curl a little easier,
and we, all of us, must enter our Vegas years.
Blessed the pacemakers, blessed the painkillers,
blessed our famed quiffs grown flyaway, grown thin,
the gray starting to sprout under the dye.
So much to hide beneath the spit and mascara.
So much to powder puff and trim. Nose hairs,
for instance, and sideburns, the skin seasick
as we’re made to play dress-up one final time.
A daughter’s bracelet slipped over a wrist,
and, for the ring finger, a lightning bolt ring.
How far we venture from a love of peanut butter
and Wonder Bread, how far from a Stutz Bearcat
and Kahlil Gibran. From codeine, meperidine,
diazepam, the room with the teddy bears
and the empty syringe. How far
from the last book we dived into to learn
about sexual positions and astrological signs.
And far, too, from the myth of our baritones
coming alive in Tupelo, of how we could turn on
and off the rain. “That’s the way the mop flops,”
I think he’d say, as they lay him out flat
under the chandelier, then in the limousine.
“That’s the way the mop flops,” as five men
enter his mausoleum with water, cement,
and a wheelbarrow full of sand,
the instruments set down, the stage lights dimmed,
“Thank you very much! Goodnight, Graceland.”

Source: Poetry September 2015

Ciaran Berry

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Poem of the Day: Essay on Craft

Because the butterfly’s yellow wing
flickering in black mud
was a word
stranded by its language.
Because no one else
was coming — & I ran
out of reasons.
So I gathered fistfuls
of  ash, dark as ink,
hammered them
into marrow, into
a skull thick
enough to keep
the gentle curse
of  dreams. Yes, I aimed
for mercy — 
but came only close
as building a cage
around the heart. Shutters
over the eyes. Yes,
I gave it hands
despite knowing
that to stretch that clay slab
into five blades of light,
I would go
too far. Because I, too,
needed a place
to hold me. So I dipped
my fingers back
into the fire, pried open
the lower face
until the wound widened
into a throat,
until every leaf shook silver
with that god
-awful scream
& I was done.
& it was human.

Source: Poetry July/August 2017

Ocean Vuong

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Poem of the Day: Radio

Don’t hurt the radio for
Against all
Solid testimony machines
Have feelings
Too
Brush past it lightly
With a fine regard
For allowing its molecules
To remain 100% intact
Machines can think like Wittgenstein
And the radio’s a machine
Thinking softly to itself
Of the Midnight Flower
As her tawny parts unfold
In slow motion the boat
Rocks on the ocean
As her tawny parts unfold
The radio does something mental
To itself singingly
As her tawny parts unfold
Inside its wires
And steal away its heart
Two minutes after eleven
The color dream communicates itself
The ink falls on the paper as if magically
The scalp falls away
A pain is felt
Deep in the radio
I take out my larynx and put it on the blue chair
And do my dance for the radio
It’s my dance in which I kneel in front of the radio
And while remaining motionless elsewise
Force my eyeballs to come as close together as possible
While uttering a horrible and foreign word
Which I cannot repeat to you without now removing my larynx
And placing it on the blue chair
The blue chair isn’t here
So I can’t do that trick at the present time
The radio is thinking a few licks of its own
Pianistic thoughts attuned to tomorrow’s grammar
Beautiful spas of seltzery coition
Plucked notes like sandpaper attacked by Woody Woodpecker
The radio says Edwardian farmers from Minnesota march on the Mafia
Armed with millions of radioactive poker chips
The radio fears foul play
It turns impersonal
A piggy bank was smashed
A victim was found naked
Radio how can you tell me this
In such a chipper tone
Your structure of voices is a friend
The best kind
The kind one can turn on or off
Whenever one wants to
But that is wrong I know
For you will intensely to continue
And in a deeper way
You do
Hours go by
And I watch you
As you diligently apply
A series of audible frequencies
To tiny receptors
Located inside my cranium
Resulting in much pleasure for someone
Who looks like me
Although he is seated about two inches to my left
And the both of us
Are listening to your every word
With a weird misapprehension
It’s the last of the tenth
And Harmon Killebrew is up
With a man aboard
He blasts a game-winning home run
The 559th of his career
But no one cares
Because the broadcast is studio-monitored for taping
To be replayed in 212 years
Heaven must be like this, radio
To not care about anything
Because it’s all being taped for replay much later
Heaven must be like this
For as her tawny parts unfold
The small lights swim roseate
As if of sepals were the tarp made
As it is invisibly unrolled
And sundown gasps its old Ray Charles 45 of Georgia
Only through your voice
Tom Clark, “Radio” from Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems. Copyright � 2006 by Tom Clark. Used with the permission of Coffee House Press, http://bit.ly/2oog7Yc.

Source: Sleepwalker(1992)

Tom Clark

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Poem of the Day: Please, Not That Again

How burdensome they seemed, wartime
oldies that could drive our parents teary:
 
“I’ll Be Seeing You,” with its hint
of being swept off in a global riptide;
 
or the shaky follow-up of “I’ll Be Home
for Christmas,” followed by a shakier
 
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree
(with Anyone Else But Me),” “Comin’
 
in on a Wing and a Prayer,” or “Ac-
Cent-Tchu-Are the Positive.” We suffered
 
them on the old cathedral radio, crooned
by Crosby and Sinatra, had to watch them
 
strangled on The Lawrence Welk Show
or laced with Como’s heavy dose
 
of sedative. Dad told us, “Straighten Up
and Fly Right.” Mom hummed, “Keep
 
the Home Fires Burning”—till our music
cut the cord. Brash and free of corn,
 
it hailed rock ‘n’ roll, caught Maybellene
at the top of the hill, moaned “m’ baby-doll,
 
m’ baby-doll, m’ baby-doll.” We played it
loud and often, but they never understood.
 
William Trowbridge, “Please, Not That Again” from Vanishing Point.  Copyright © 2017 by William Trowbridge.  Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: Vanishing Point(Red Hen Press, 2017)

William Trowbridge

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Poem of the Day: August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower

In the middle of rolling grasslands, away from lights,
a moonless night untethers its wild polka-dots,
the formations we can name competing for attention
in a twinkling and crowded sky-bowl.
Out from the corners, our eyes detect a maverick meteor,
a transient streak, and lying back toward midnight
on the heft of our car hood, all conversation blunted,
we were at once unnerved and somehow restored.
Out here, a furrow of spring-fed river threads
through ranches in the tens of thousands of acres.
Like cattle, we are powerless, by instinct can see
why early people trembled and deliberated the heavens.
Off in the distance those cattle make themselves known,
a bird song moves singular across the horizon.
Not yet 2:00, and bits of comet dust, the Perseids,
startle and skim the atmosphere like skipping stones.
In the leaden dark, we are utterly alone. As I rub the ridges
on the back of your hand, our love for all things warm
and pulsing crescendos toward dawn: this timeless awe,
your breath floating with mine upward into the stars.
 
Twyla Hansen, “August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower” from Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet. Copyright © 2011 by Twyla Hansen.  Reprinted by permission of Backwaters Press.

Source: Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet(2011)

Twyla Hansen

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Poem of the Day: Finding My Mother

Near dusk I find her in a newly mown field, lying still
and face down in the coarse stubble. Her arms
 
are splayed out on either side of her body, palms open
and turned upward like two lilies, the slender fingers
 
gently curling, as if holding onto something. Her legs
are drawn up underneath her, as if she fell asleep there
 
on her knees, perhaps while praying, perhaps intoxicated
by the sweet liquid odor of sheared grass.
 
Her small ankles, white and unscarred, are crossed
one on top of the other, as if arranged so in ritual fashion.
 
Her feet are bare. I cannot see her face, turned
toward the ground as it is,
 
but her long black hair is lovelier than I remember it,
spilling across her back and down onto the felled stalks
 
like a pour of glossy tar. Her flesh is smooth
and cool, slightly resistant to my touch.
 
I begin to look around me for something with which
to carry her back—carry her back, I hear myself say,
 
as if the words spoken aloud, even in a dream,
will somehow make it possible.
 
I am alone in a field, at dusk, the light leaving
the way it has to, leaking away the way it has to
 
behind a ridge of swiftly blackening hills. I lie down
on the ground beside my mother under falling darkness
 
and draw my coat over our bodies. We sleep there like that.

 
Mari L’Esperance, “Finding My Mother” from The Darkened Temple.  Copyright © 2008 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.  Reprinted by permission of University of Nebraska Press.

Source: The Darkened Temple(University of Nebraska Press, 2008)

Mari L'Esperance

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Poem of the Day: Brian Age Seven

Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.
I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere. He breathes here,
on his page. It isn’t craft
that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines,
in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks
seem to thrill with life,
possess a portion
of the nervous energy
in their maker’s hand?
That big curve of a smile
reaches nearly to the rim
of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream,
brown spheres teetering
on their cone,
a soda fountain gift
half the length of him
—as if it were the flag
of his own country held high
by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support
for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty:
he shows us pleasure
and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious.
He’s frail beside his relentless standard.
“Brian Age Seven” from Source by Mark Doty. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Source(HarperCollins, 2001)

Mark Doty

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Poem of the Day: Not Pastoral Enough

It is the sense, it is the sense, controls,
Landing every poem like a fish.
Unhuman forms must not assert their roles.
 
Glittering scales require the deadly tolls
Of net and knife. Scales fall to relish.
It is the sense, it is the sense, controls.
 
Yet languages are apt to miss on souls
If reason only guts them. Applying the wish,
Unhuman forms must not assert their roles,
 
Ignores the fact that poems have two poles
That must be opposite. Hard then to finish
It is the sense, it is the sense, controls,
 
Without a sense of lining up for doles
From other kitchens that give us the garnish:
Unhuman forms must not assert their roles.
 
And this (forgive me) is like carrying coals
To Sheffield. Irrelevance betrays a formal anguish.
It is the sense, it is the sense, controls,
“Unhuman forms must not assert their roles”.
Veronica Forrest-Thomson, “Not Pastoral Enough” from Collected Poems and Translations. Copyright © 1971 by Veronica Forrest-Thomson.  Reprinted by permission of Allardyce, Barnett, Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems(Shearsman Books, 2008)

Veronica Forrest-Thomson

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Poem of the Day: Country Summer

Now the rich cherry, whose sleek wood,
And top with silver petals traced
Like a strict box its gems encased,
Has spilt from out that cunning lid,
All in an innocent green round,
Those melting rubies which it hid;
With moss ripe-strawberry-encrusted,
So birds get half, and minds lapse merry
To taste that deep-red, lark’s-bite berry,
And blackcap bloom is yellow-dusted.
The wren that thieved it in the eaves
A trailer of the rose could catch
To her poor droopy sloven thatch,
And side by side with the wren’s brood—
O lovely time of beggar’s luck—
Opens the quaint and hairy bud;
And full and golden is the yield
Of cows that never have to house,
But all night nibble under boughs,
Or cool their sides in the moist field.
Into the rooms flow meadow airs,
The warm farm baking smell’s blown round.
Inside and out, and sky and ground
Are much the same; the wishing star,
Hesperus, kind and early born,
Is risen only finger-far;
All stars stand close in summer air,
And tremble, and look mild as amber;
When wicks are lighted in the chamber,
They are like stars which settled there.
Now straightening from the flowery hay,
Down the still light the mowers look,
Or turn, because their dreaming shook,
And they waked half to other days,
When left alone in the yellow stubble
The rusty-coated mare would graze.
Yet thick the lazy dreams are born,
Another thought can come to mind,
But like the shivering of the wind,
Morning and evening in the corn.
Léonie Adams, “Country Summer” from Poems: A Selection (New York: The Noonday Press, 1959). Used by permission of Judith Farr, Literary Executrix of the Estate of Léonie Adams.

Source: Poems: A Selection(The Noonday Press, 1959)

Léonie Adams

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