Evening Poetry, August 31

Brass Spittoons

By Langston Hughes

Clean the spittoons, boy.
      Detroit,
      Chicago,
      Atlantic City,
      Palm Beach.
Clean the spittoons.
The steam in hotel kitchens,
And the smoke in hotel lobbies,
And the slime in hotel spittoons:
Part of my life.
      Hey, boy!
      A nickel,
      A dime,
      A dollar,
Two dollars a day.
      Hey, boy!
      A nickel,
      A dime,
      A dollar,
      Two dollars
Buy shoes for the baby.
House rent to pay.
Gin on Saturday,
Church on Sunday.
      My God!
Babies and gin and church
And women and Sunday
All mixed with dimes and
Dollars and clean spittoons
And house rent to pay.
      Hey, boy!
A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord.
Bright polished brass like the cymbals
Of King David’s dancers,
Like the wine cups of Solomon.
      Hey, boy!
A clean spittoon on the altar of the Lord.
A clean bright spittoon all newly polished—
At least I can offer that.
      Com’mere, boy!

You can find this poem in Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.

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Evening Poetry, August 30

This Stranger, My Husband

By Freya Manfred

The older we get the stranger my husband becomes, 
and the less certain I am that I know him. 
We used to lie eye to eye, breathing together
in the immensity of each moment. 
Lithe and starry-eyed, we could leap fences 
even with babies on our backs. 

His eyes still dream off 
toward something in the distance I can’t see; 
but now he gazes more zealously, 
and leaps into battle with a more certain voice 
over politics, religion, or art, 
and some old friends won’t come to dinner. 

The molecules of our bodies spiral off into the stars 
on winds of change and chance, 
as we welcome the unknown, the incalculable,
the spirit and heart of everything we named and knew so well— 
and never truly named, or knew,
but only loved, at last.

You can find this poem in Speak, Mother.

Evening Poetry, August 29

Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

by Jane Kenyon

We turned into the drive,

and gravel flew up from the tires

like sparks from a fire. So much

to be done–the unpacking, the mail

and papers…the grass needed mowing….

We climbed stiffly out of the car.

The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,

the limbs so heavy with fruit

they nearly touched the ground.

We went out to the meadow; our steps

made black holes in the grass;

and we each took a pear,

and ate, and were grateful.

This poem can be found in Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, August 28

The Wind Shifts

By Wallace Stevens

This is how the wind shifts:
Like the thoughts of an old human,
Who still thinks eagerly
And despairingly.
The wind shifts like this:
Like a human without illusions,
Who still feels irrational things within her.
The wind shifts like this:
Like humans approaching proudly,
Like humans approaching angrily.
This is how the wind shifts:
Like a human, heavy and heavy,
Who does not care.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, August 27

Wind, Water, Stone

I’ve been a bit scattered with posting the past few weeks–thanks for understanding! Although I’m a few hours late tonight, I thought this poem beautiful and unusual and I look forward to reading more by this poet.

By Octavio Paz

Translated By Eliot Weinberger

for Roger Caillois

Water hollows stone,
wind scatters water,
stone stops the wind.
Water, wind, stone.

Wind carves stone,
stone’s a cup of water,
water escapes and is wind.
Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

You can find this in The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz.

Evening Poetry, August 24

[London, my beautiful]

F. S. Flint – 1885-1960

London, my beautiful,
it is not the sunset
nor the pale green sky
shimmering through the curtain
of the silver birch,
nor the quietness;
it is not the hopping
of birds
upon the lawn,
nor the darkness
stealing over all things
that moves me.

But as the moon creeps slowly
over the tree-tops
among the stars,
I think of her
and the glow her passing
sheds on the men.

London, my beautiful,
I will climb
into the branches
to the moonlit tree-tops,
that my blood may be cooled
by the wind.

This poem is in the public domain.

Evening Poetry, August 23

Remember

by Jo Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

You can find this poem in She Had Some Horses.

Evening Poetry, August 20

For Longing

by John O’ Donohue

Blessed be the longing that brought you here

And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of

desire

That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into

your own unease

To discover the new direction your longing wants

you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity,

and friendship–

Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your own soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of

your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and

nurture you’re feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness

with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-

structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine

urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs

for you.

You can find this in the collection To Bless the Space Between Us.

Evening Poetry, August 19

Sunset

by Emily Dickinson

A sloop of amber slips away

Upon an ether sea,

And wrecks in peace a purple tar,

The son of ecstasy.

You can find this poem in Hope is the Thing as Feathers.

Evening Poetry, August 18

You can find this in The Book of a Monastic Life in Rilke’s Book of Hours.

I,6

by Rainer Maria Rilke

You, God, who live next door–

If at times, through the long night, I trouble you

with my urgent knocking–

this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.

I know you’re all alone in that room.

If you should be thirsty, there’s no one

to get you a glass of water.

I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!

I’m right here.

As it happens, the wall between us

is very thin. Why couldn’t a cry

from one of us

break it down? It would crumble

easily.

it would barely make a sound.