~These poems were selected
by Clara Jane Hallar, Assistant Editor for Poetry.
~This poem was previously
published in Nimrod International Journal (2011).
Broken Abecedarius of How Things Might Be if the World Were Saved
Achoo! at the beginning of a tale.
wandering in daylight, unafraid of being shot, even
who would not be drunk any more if invited to your wedding.
or a dinosaur named
would go to the front screen door on command so you could
as the normal gait of soldiers.
that fall one by one into the mouth of the Salmon of Wisdom who swims
beneath, until the time comes for her
to be caught by a wizard’s
apprentice and cooked over a slow
fire until she has rendered up all the
wisdom remaining in her unsung
once a day by the scent from white
flowers tumbling over a garden wall, except for the
Butterflies, who would need to remain sober.
an alternate choice (see G above).
respect for Dame Love, who has thoughtfully abolished Reason.
the children reaching the house in the middle of the forest, where they will be
temporarily changed into birds, and
introduced to their hearts’ desire by a very
who knows all the tales with caves in them.
music rolling around between the warm, uneven bricks, under the chairs.
yellow leaves, and the musk of grapes.
released from duty but staying on as a volunteer on weekends when he has
from being a taxi driver in New York, something he has always wanted to
has finally convinced Steven Hawking that she is indeed the final black hole
with its plazas and feasts, its gardens of endless endings for which we have
to which we have spent the last million years
and Zagging (see G above) and where we will arrive this very
was previously published in Hanging Loose
“Life and memory of it so compressed they’ve turned into
Which is which?”—Elizabeth Bishop
“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”—Cesare
came to MIT in 1966, on a scholarship, from a Buffalo, New York, working
class family, a family where books were suspect and my decision to
go to MIT instead of a local college surprising. I was majoring in physics
when, during my senior year, I took a poetry writing class with Denise
Levertov. In Denise, and her husband, Mitch Goodman, I found the intellectual
family, and the wider world, that I had been searching for. Over the years, I continued to live and work in the Boston
area, mostly in
Somerville and Cambridge. My
relationship with Denise continued as she became
my confidante, my poetry mentor, my guide to a life of the mind broader
than just physics and mathematics. I was soon admitted into her large
but intimate circle of friends, social activists, and writers. This included
becoming an invited guest at her country house in western Maine.
At some time in the early 60s, Denise and Mitch had bought a farmhouse
in the township of Temple—literally where the highway ends. It
served them for years as an escape from the summer heat of their Greenwich
Village apartment. After they moved to Boston, as it was closer
to the farmhouse, they took off to Temple more frequently and in all
seasons, as indicated in the following sketches from memory. As you read
them, imagine the effect on a young mind of this couple, poet and novelist,
well-read intellectuals, and political activists.
remember flying with Denise in a small prop plane from Boston to Farmington.
The twin engines thrummed as we skimmed the green treetops
of Maine’s endless woods. It was my first visit, August. Mitch was
there to greet and drive us in his Volvo to their Temple farmhouse.
was always at least one other Volvo parked on the front lawn. Over
the years, with each visit, I would find the collection had grown. Mitch
bought them for spare parts to keep one aging Volvo running. His answer
to inquiries was always “You can imagine how common a Volvo dealer
is in rural Maine.”
kitchen window looked out on a lone apple tree beside a fieldstone fence
a short distance behind the house; beyond the fence was a broad, grassy
field. It sloped up from the farmhouse to a tree-lined ridge; to the right
of the house the field descended sharply in the direction of Temple Stream.
A granite slab served as the front-door step. Denise and I sat there
one morning as she read me the poem she’d just written: “night lies
down/in the field. . . .”
~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar,
assistant editor, poetry
~This poem was previously published
in Spoon River Quarterly (1991).
Selena’s on the telephone. Richard
conference. Philip’s on hold.
Mark is listening.
At the front desk Pat is decding
be masculine or feminine.
Most of us
have already made this decision,
lived to regret it.
And where is Caroline? Philip calls Selena,
answer. He calls Bob, but
not there. He calls me,
for an open line. “Mark, is Caroline there.”
She is not. She is in the conference
herself, practicing eye contact,
doing without cigarettes
for an hour
and a half, studying inflections, weighing nuance.
Through the skylight the sun lights
connection or warmth; it’s working on a
it’s on to something big. The sun is so much
it’s almost uncanny,
As if masculine were feminine,
listening, sometimes there’s just
contours of the telephone
been on hold.