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Clod & Pebble

a place for poetry

“Happiness” by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

“A Good Day” by Kait Rokowski.

Yesterday, I spent 60 dollars on groceries,
took the bus home,
carried both bags with two good arms back to my studio apartment
and cooked myself dinner.
You and I may have different definitions of a good day.
This week, I paid my rent and my credit card bill,
worked 60 hours between my two jobs,
only saw the sun on my cigarette breaks
and slept like a rock.

Flossed in the morning,
locked my door,
and remembered to buy eggs.
My mother is proud of me.
It is not the kind of pride she brags about at the golf course.
She doesn’t combat topics like, “My daughter got into Yale”
with, “Oh yeah, my daughter remembered to buy eggs”
But she is proud.

See, she remembers what came before this.
The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,
how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.
She thought each phone call from an unknown number was the notice of my suicide.
These were the bad days.
My life was a gift that I wanted to return.

My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.
Depression, is a good lover.
So attentive; has this innate way of making everything about you.
And it is easy to forget that your bedroom is not the world,
That the dark shadows your pain casts is not mood-lighting.

It is easier to stay in this abusive relationship than fix the problems it has created.
Today, I slept in until 10,
cleaned every dish I own,
fought with the bank,
took care of paperwork.
You and I might have different definitions of adulthood.

I don’t work for salary, I didn’t graduate from college,
but I don’t speak for others anymore,
and I don’t regret anything I can’t genuinely apologize for.
And my mother is proud of me.

I burned down a house of depression,
I painted over murals of greyscale,
and it was hard to rewrite my life into one I wanted to live
But today, I want to live.

I didn’t salivate over sharp knives,
or envy the boy who tossed himself off the Brooklyn bridge.
I just cleaned my bathroom,
did the laundry,
called my brother.
Told him, “it was a good day.”

““Me And My Parrots,” Frida Kahlo, 1941 ” by Susan Blackwell Ramsey.

Woolf told us any good biography
made her feel she understood that person
as no one ever had. I nodded, since
no one understands her as I do,
and that goes for Emily Dickinson,
Elizabeth I and Marilyn Monroe.

So many of our friends are dead or dying
(they all are dying) that it’s a relief
to have some safely dead before we meet.

Half the people Emily Dickinson loved
were dead before she reached sixteen, Woolf dreamed
of her dead mother every night for decades,
and both Elizabeth and Marilyn,
surrounded by people, were utterly alone.

One writer says that Marilyn’s greatest gift
was making everyone want to take care of her.
Reading, we believe we know their need,
that socket we would fill.

But Frida’s stare
is a bucketful of ice-cold absolution.
You’re not responsible for her happiness.
She isn’t grateful to you for her fame.
Each amiable, idiotic parrot
outlived her, but she loves them more than you.
Even the cigarette. Especially.

“The Unbearable Weight of Staying” by Warsan Shire

i don’t know when love became elusive
what i know, is that no one i know has it
my fathers arms around my mothers neck
fruit too ripe to eat, a door half way open
when your name is a just a hand
i can never hold
everything i have ever believed in,
becomes magic.

i think of lovers as trees, growing to and
from one another searching for the same light,
my mothers laughter in a dark room,
a photograph greying under my touch,
this is all i know how to do,
carry loss around until
i begin to resemble every bad memory,
every terrible fear,
every nightmare anyone has ever had.

i ask did you ever love me?
you say of course,
of course so quickly
that you sound like someone else
i ask are you made of steel?
are you made of iron?
you cry on the phone, my stomach hurts

i let you leave, i need someone who knows
how to stay.

“Inland” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore –
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?

People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbor’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for, –
Starting up in my inland bed,

Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning –
One salt taste of the sea once more?

“Read Genesis” by Gerald Stern.

I was betrayed by Bohemia early
in my life and left a run-down hotel
with my eye swollen shut by an insect bite
but got my revenge in France and Italy
and wasn’t bitten once in those two countries.

I swore off free meals and book-stealing
both there and elsewhere and
if I got something for nothing
it wasn’t by schnorring
so have a heart, pedagogus.

Think of Baudelaire and his clouds
or Michelangelo on his step ladder
putting a little spit in for tone
and a gob or two for substance
just to please the flunkies down there

even as they kicked the wooden legs
their tongues out in excitement
though I have to interrupt to say
God did it with a voice not a finger,
n’est-ce pas?

“There It Is” by Jayne Cortez.

My friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake
They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you

And you will disappear into your own rage
into your own insanity
into your own poverty
into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon
and then ashes

The ruling class will tell you that
there is no ruling class
as they organize their liberal supporters into
white supremacist lynch mobs
organize their children into
ku klux klan gangs
organize their police into
killer cops
organize their propaganda into
a device to ossify us with angel dust
preoccupy us with western symbols in
african hair styles
inoculate us with hate
institutionalize us with ignorance
hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed
to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away
And we are programmed to self-destruct
to fragment
to get buried under covert intelligence operations of
unintelligent committees impulsed toward death
And there it is

The enemies polishing their penises between
oil wells at the pentagon
the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances
the old folks dying of starvation
the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs
the life blood of the earth almost dead in
the greedy mouth of imperialism
And my friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will spray you with
a virus of legionnaire’s disease
fill your nostrils with
the swine flu of their arrogance
stuff your body into a tampon of
toxic shock syndrome
try to pump all the resources of the world
into their own veins
and fly off into the wild blue yonder to
pollute another planet

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is

“Last Day on Earth” by Lawrence Raab.

If it’s the title of a movie you expect
everything to become important—a kiss,
a shrug, a glass of wine, a walk with the dog.

But if the day is real, life is only
as significant as yesterday—the kiss
hurried, the shrug forgotten, and now,

on the path by the river, you don’t notice
the sky darkening beyond the pines because
you’re imagining what you’ll say at dinner,

swirling the wine in your glass.
You don’t notice the birds growing silent
or the cold towers of clouds moving in,

because you’re explaining how lovely
and cool it was in the woods. And the dog
had stopped limping!—she seemed

her old self again, sniffing the air and alert,
the way dogs are to whatever we can’t see.
And I was happy, you hear yourself saying,

because it felt as if I’d been allowed
to choose my last day on earth,
and this was the one I chose.

“Colors Passing Through Us” by Marge Piercy.

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors’ buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other’s arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.

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