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Clod & Pebble

a place for poetry

“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.

“I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life” by Mary Oliver.

Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.

“Your Breast is Enough” by Pablo Neruda.

Your breast is enough for my heart,
and my wings for your freedom.
What was sleeping above your soul will rise
out of my mouth to heaven.

In you is the illusion of each day.
You arrive like the dew to the cupped flowers.
You undermine the horizon with your absence.
Eternally in flight like the wave.

I have said that you sang in the wind
like the pines and like the masts.
Like them you are tall and taciturn,
and you are sad, all at once, like a voyage.

You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echos and nostalgic voices.
I awoke and at times birds fled and migrated
that had been living in your soul.

“Artless” by Brenda Shaughnessy

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,
tartless.

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,
roofless.

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less

substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,
meatless

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less.

Fatted from the day,
overripe and even
toxic at eve. Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must
know, if I must bend,
waistless,

to that excruciation.
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,
aloneless.

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,
fightless.

That loud hub of us,
meat stub of us, beating us
senseless.

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing,
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is
silencelessness

for the pressing question.
Heart, what art you?
War, star, part? Or less:

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,
loveless.

“Love, with Trees and Lightning” by Catie Rosemurgy.

I’ve been thinking about what love is for.
Not the obvious part where he gathers
until he is as purposeful inside her
as an electrical storm, not when he breaks
into a thanks so bright it leaves her
split like a tree. (We all jolt back,
our picnic ten shades lighter, our hands
clapped over awe that’s too big for our mouths.)

But the two of them, afterwards,
tasting the electricity, nibbling
the charge on the ions. When her pulse
has already risked coming to meet him
at the window of her skin. When what is left
of his body still feels huge, and he sits draped
in his fine, long coat of animal muscles
but uses all his strength to be almost imperceptible.
They curl up, make their bodies the same size,
draw promises in one another’s juices.
“You,” they say. I love it when they say that.

Would that they could give a solid reason.
Sometimes they even refuse to try.
They make jokes while cinching their laces.
“I’ll call soon,” he says. “You’re so sweet,”
she says, but the rank sugar of his breath
doesn’t summarize the world for her.
“Not you,” they say.

And nothing bad has happened.
They just turn the doorknob that has been
shining in their hands the whole time, walk out,
and continue to die. Same as the rest of us.
So maybe love is a form of crying. Or maybe
it’s our way of finishing what the leaves have started
and turning a brilliant color before we hit the ground.
Name one living thing that doesn’t somehow bloom.
None of them get to choose the right conditions.
Think of chemical fires or ghost orchids.

Maybe one body is simply insufficient.
So they change their minds and decide
to stand by one another’s side for years.
They bring flowers and carpet and children
into the act. They refuse to move, ever.
They act as if they’ve found the only hospitable
spot on earth. I love it when they do that.

“Moorings” by Ruth Padel.

Darkness. For the first time you hear
The body that has made itself core
Of the universe (or anyway, you reckon now,
Or yours), slacken its guy-ropes for sleep

As if mile-deep water
Were slap-settling round you in a lake
Whose speedboat carnivals, much as you adored
The show they made, have gone.

It’s a website of alien muscles
Losing their hair-trigger touch on a soul
Blowing Christ knows where. This is all
New. But you say

(To him, to yourself),
I’ll follow, if you give the sign.

“Elegy” by Carol Ann Duffy.

Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave
where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here
that swoops away from your throat, and this,
which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these
which I count with my lips, and your skull,
which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers,
beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history,
singled you out in your time?

Love loved you best; lit you
with a flame, like talent, under your skin; let you
move through your days and nights, blessed in your flesh,
blood, hair, as though they were lovely garments
you wore to pleasure the air. Who’ll guess, if they read
you stone, or press their thumbs to the scars
of your dates, that were I alive, I would lie on the grass
above your bones till I mirrored your pose, your infinite grace?

“The Wish of the Brother with a Swan’s Wing” by Nancy Willard.

As soon as the shirts touched them, the swan skins fell off, and her brothers stood before her in the flesh. Only the youngest was missing his left arm, and he had a swan’s wing on his shoulder instead. – “The Six Swans”, The Brothers Grimm

To meet his left arm again.
To pick up pebbles and skip them.
To close ten fingers over a pearl
of great price. To wind the gold stem
of his watch. Or not wind it.
To stop time. To walk up and speak to her.
To play Chopin and move the minutes
to tears. To carve her name on a bench.
To lift her chin toward his mouth.
To dance with her, one hand at the small
of her back, the other clasping her fingers
lightly – they are so small, like the bones
of a bird! With his strong left hand,
to slip a gold band on her finger.
To throw off his shirt, blue as the asters,
that his sister wove from the wild stars
of the field. To be broken yet whole, a ring
of still water. To sleep with his bride
on the floor of a white boat as it floats
out to sea. To carry her on the water’s
shoulders. To shelter her
under his wing.

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