Evening Poetry, June 25

Fireflies

by Frank Ormsby

The lights come on and stay on under the trees.
Visibly a whole neighborhood inhabits the dusk,
so punctual and in place it seems to deny
dark its dominion. Nothing will go astray,
the porch lamps promise. Sudden, as though a match
failed to ignite at the foot of the garden, the first squibs
trouble the eye. Impossible not to share
that sportive, abortive, clumsy, where-are-we-now
dalliance with night, such soothing relentlessness.
What should we make of fireflies, their quick flare
of promise and disappointment, their throwaway style?
Our heads turn this way and that. We are loath to miss
such jauntiness in nature. Those fugitive selves,
winged and at random! Our flickery might-have-beens
come up form the woods to haunt us! Our yet-to-be
as tentative frolic! What do fireflies say?
That loneliness made of light becomes at last
convivial singleness? That any antic spark
cruising the void might titillate creation?
And whether they spend themselves, or go to ground,
or drift with their lights out, they have left the gloom,
for as long as our eyes take to absorb such absence,
less than it seemed, as childless and deprived
as Chaos and Old Night. But ruffled, too,
as though it unearthed some memory of light
from its long blackout, a hospitable core
fit home for fireflies, brushed by fireflies’ wings.

You can find this poem in Goat’s Milk.

Evening Poetry, June 24

Everything is Waiting for You

by David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

You can find this poem in River Flow: New & Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, June 13

1998

VII

by Wendell Berry

For John Haines

There is a place you can go

where you are quiet,

a place of water and the light

on the water. Trees are there,

leaves, and the light

on leaves moved by air.

Birds, singing, move

among leaves, in leaf shadow.

After many years you have come

to no thought of these,

but they are themselves

your thoughts. There seems to be

little to say, less and less.

Here they are. Here you are.

Here as though gone.

None of us stays, but in the hush

where each leaf in the speech

of leaves is a sufficient syllable

the passing light finds out

surpassing freedom of its way.

You can find this poem in This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems.

Evening Poetry, June 8

We Are Not Responsible

by Harryette Mullen

We are not responsible for your lost or stolen relatives. 
We cannot guarantee your safety if you disobey our instructions. 
We do not endorse the causes or claims of people begging for handouts. 
We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. 

Your ticket does not guarantee that we will honor your reservations. 
In order to facilitate our procedures, please limit your carrying on. 
Before taking off, please extinguish all smoldering resentments. 

If you cannot understand English, you will be moved out of the way. 
In the event of a loss, you’d better look out for yourself. 
Your insurance was cancelled because we can no longer handle
your frightful claims. Our handlers lost your luggage and we
are unable to find the key to your legal case. 

You were detained for interrogation because you fit the profile. 
You are not presumed to be innocent if the police 
have reason to suspect you are carrying a concealed wallet. 
It’s not our fault you were born wearing a gang color. 
It is not our obligation to inform you of your rights. 

Step aside, please, while our officer inspects your bad attitude. 
You have no rights we are bound to respect. 
Please remain calm, or we can’t be held responsible 
for what happens to you. 

You can find this poem in Sleeping With the Dictionary.

Evening Poetry, June 7

Beat! Beat! Drums!

by Walt Whitman

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities—over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day—no brokers or speculators—would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums—you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley—stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid—mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums—so loud you bugles blow.

You can find this in The Complete Poems.

Evening Poetry, June 6

I look at the world

by Langston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space   
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body   
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

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

Evening Poetry, June 5

All in June

by William Henry Davies

A week ago I had a fire
To warm my feet, my hands and face;
Cold winds, that never make a friend,
Crept in and out of every place.

Today the fields are rich in grass,
And buttercups in thousands grow;
I’ll show the world where I have been–
With gold-dust seen on either shoe.

Till to my garden back I come,
Where bumble-bees for hours and hours
Sit on their soft, fat, velvet bums,
To wriggle out of hollow flowers.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of William Henry Davies.

Evening Poetry, June 1

Can You Imagine

by Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightning storms
or the watery dark of a summer’s night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now – whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade – surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

You can find this poem in Long Life.

Evening Poetry, May 31

In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.

by June Jordan

I

honey people murder mercy U.S.A.   
the milkland turn to monsters teach   
to kill to violate pull down destroy   
the weakly freedom growing fruit   
from being born

America

tomorrow yesterday rip rape   
exacerbate despoil disfigure   
crazy running threat the   
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast   
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy   
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing

death by men by more
than you or I can

STOP

II

They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal   
stage direction obvious   
like shorewashed shells

we share an afternoon of mourning   
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal   
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

You can find this poem in Directed by Desire.

Evening Poetry, May 29

Every Day

by Naomi Shihab Nye

My hundred-year-old next-door neighbor told me:

every day is a good day if you have it.

I had to think about that a minute.

She said, Every day is a present

someone left at your birthday place at the table.

Trust me! It may not feel like that

but it’s true. When you’re my age

you’ll know. Twelve is a treasure.

And it’s up to you

to unwrap the package gently,

lift out the gleaming hours

wrapped in tissue,

don’t miss the bottom of the box.

You can find this A Maze Me: Poems for Girls.