“Now he knows what to say.”


Fuel by Naomi Shihab Nye

This is more standard literary poetry: a set of observations, and then some “insight”, “what this is really about,” a revelation. There are some lovely poems here: “Hidden,” quoted in many reviews is nice; also “Alphabet;” the opening lines of “The Rider” are lovely (A boy told me/if he roller-skated fast enough/his loneliness couldn’t catch up with him); “Pause” brings some nice observations; and the closing poems, “The Last Day of August” and “I Still Have Everything You Gave Me” offer a nice closing sense.

The last lines of “Listening to Poetry in a Language I Do Not Understand” are probably my favorite of her closing insights:

One word rolls across the floor,

lodging under the slipper

of the man who has felt uncomfortable

all day.

Now he knows what to say.

Turner’s Buoy (excerpt)

from Fog Island, Tomi Ungerer. 2013

Some haunting lines from a very fine poem.

So much depended
on the sound unheard, shouts buried in fog,

indistinct as deaths telegraphed
along the old Atlantic cables

Willilam Logan, “Turner’s Buoy.” The New Criterion. January 2019.

HT: Prufrock


This does so many things well.

Simon Armitage

Because I’d done wrong I was sent to hell,
down black steps to the airless tombs
of mothballed contraptions and broken tools.
Piled on a shelf every daffodil bulb
was an animal skull or shrunken head,
every drawer a seed-tray of mildew and rust.
In its alcove shrine a bottle of meths
stood corked and purple like a pickled saint.
I inched ahead, pushed the door of the furthest crypt
where starlight broke in through shuttered vents
and there were the shears, balanced on two nails,
hanging cruciform on the white-washed wall.

And because I’d done wrong I was sent
to the end of the garden to cut the hedge,
that dividing line between moor and lawn
gone haywire that summer, all stem and stalk
where there should have been contour and form.
The shears were a crude beast, lumpen, pre-war,
rolling-pin handles on iron-age swords,
an oiled rivet that rolled like a slow eye,
jaws that opened to the tips of its wings
then closed with an executioner’s lisp.
I snipped and prodded at first, pecked at strands,
then cropped and hacked watching spiders scuttle
for tunnels and bolt-holes of woven silk,
and found further in an abandoned nest
like a begging bowl or a pauper’s wreath,
till two hours on the hedge stood scalped
and fleeced, raw-looking, stripped of its green,
my hands blistered, my feet in a litter
of broken arrows and arrowhead leaves.

He came from the house to inspect the work,
didn’t speak, ran his eye over the levelled crown
and the shorn flanks. Then for no reason except
for the sense that comes from doing a thing
for its own sake, he lifted me up in his arms
and laid me down on the top of the hedge,
just lowered me onto that bed of twigs,
and I floated there, cushioned and buoyed
by a million matchwood fingertips,
held by nothing but needling spokes and spikes,
released to the universe, buried in sky.

HT: Micah Mattix

Christ Climbed Down

One of my favorite Christmas poems surely is “Christ Climbed Down” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Christ Climbed Down

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
and German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings

Copyright 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A Birthday Poem

The other day was my birthday. My wife challenged me to write about . . .



At my age, all the good topics are taken:

“if we had world enough and time,” but past

my three score that seems short; and Milton grumped

“how soon hath time” at a mere three and twenty;

and the day that Donald Hall grew older he

was younger than I am now, and that high school

musical still plays on – my musement broken

when the waiter brings our plates.

“Asparagus,” you say. “Write what you know.”

Asparagus, delight of Michigan’s

early summer, ours for three weeks or perhaps

by strength of growing season, four, the bright

stalks the color of June, those childhood spears

now fallen like so many candles diagonal

across my plate, a demarcation

before and after, meat and potatoes,

still crisp to challenge the knife,

green arrows that lead past the plate to you.


A Graduation Poem

written for S Camp. June 2012

There’s nothing like a door to the future –

They’re sold by the pallet at Menard’s:

Steel core, hollow core, antiqued and painted;

the plain front and cross-buck; your classic fan light

Neo-Georgian; the smart timbered craftsmen

for the suburban sophisticate; the oval

frosted glass with French curliques

for the incurably romantic – they’re yours

to make every exit an entrance; this stage

set for imagination, a market theatre

of absurd choice, where doors, paint chips, hardware

and no-shadow light in a hundred designs

keep your back to the sliding door, the setting sun,

and the warmth of a summer, only now begun.