Category Archives: Poems I enjoy

Meteor shower

New Mexico Sunset

Meteor shower
by Bob Hicok

It’s the one shower I take each year.
Naked in the field with skeletons
of corn. Water’s got fresh skin
but crack it open and there’s filth,
the sundry goos we’ve given away
coming home to lick us.
To get clean you need something
out of this world. But what sadness
pushes stars to suicide? In truth
they’re rocks, we call them stars
to speak kindly of the dead.
When they fall nearby I hear a fizz
that makes me think the universe
is made of champagne. If you wash
with light you rinse with air,
it’s good for the complexion.
Real stars are the womb of everything,
pebbles and the bright logos
of tropical fish. If naked
in a field I ask the long-legged
corn to dance, a twirl is certain.
Who can resist this hot music,
these ballroom lights?


by James Tate, from his book Return to the City of White Donkeys

Thanks to the new beaver dam, Mr. Foley’s
yard was flooding. He was furious and called
the police. Officer Crothers stood there, shaking
his head. “It’s a real beauty, isn’t it?” he said.
“But it’s flooding my yard, and soon it will be
in my basement,” Mr. Foley said. “Well, there’s
nothing we can do about it. They’re protected,
and you’d pay a very stiff fine, and possibly
do time in jail if you so much as ruffled the
fur of one of them,” Crothers said. “You mean
a beaver is more important than a man, than my
whole family?” Mr. Foley said. “I didn’t say
that. I didn’t make the law, I just enforce it.
The beavers didn’t think they were building a
dam, you know. It’s their home. They’ve got
wives and kids, too. They’ve got grandparents,
and aunts and uncles. They might even have little
beaver TV sets for all I know. Let them be,
Mr. Foley. Let them be.” Officer Crothers
started to walk away. “One hand grenade right
in the middle of it is all it would take,” Mr.
Foley said. Crothers stopped and looked Foley
in the eye. “After four hundred years of slaughter,
we’re finally at peace with the beavers. They’re
happy, and we’re happy. They’re hard working,
intelligent and strong. Have you got a problem
with that, Mr. Foley?” “But my yard is flooding,”
Mr. Foley said. “For god’s sake, pretend you’re
a beaver. That’s what the rest of us do,”
Crothers said.

Defining the Problem

Defining the Problem
by Wendy Cope
I can’t forgive you. Even if I could,
You wouldn’t pardon me for seeing through you.
And yet I cannot cure myself of love
For what I thought you were before I knew you.


No, there’s not anything wrong between Nicole and me. I just ran across this poem, and it just seemed to be timely. I was just thinking about everything that has changed in this past year, that’s all.

Teaching the Ape to Write Poems

Teaching the Ape to Write Poems
By James Tate

They didn’t have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
first they strapped him into the chair,
then tied the pencil around his hand
(the paper had already been nailed down).
Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder
and whispered into his ear:
“You look like a god sitting there.
Why don’t you try writing something?”


This was a 1973 poem by James Tate. He’s pretty amazing. Nicole bought me one of his most recent books of poems last Christmas, called Return to the City of the White Donkeys. Now THAT book was filled with an otherworldly sense of humor and chaos. Although each poem in that book told a very specific story, you never knew how it would end… nor even how it would middle. I’ll post something from that book soon.

The Book

by Miller Williams

I held it in my hands while he told the story.

He had found it in a fallen bunker,
a book for notes with all the pages blank.
He took it to keep for a sketchbook and diary.

He learned years later, when he showed the book
to an old bookbinder, who paled, and stepped back
a long step and told him what he held,
what he had laid the days of his life in.
It’s bound, the binder said, in human skin.

I stood turning it over in my hands,
turning it in my head. Human skin.

What child did this skin fit? What man, what woman?
Dragged still full of its flesh from what dream?

Who took it off the meat? Some other one
who stayed alive by knowing how to do this?

I stared at the changing book and a horror grew,
I stared and a horror grew, which was, which is,
how beautiful it was until I knew.


Midnight by Richard Jackson
for Terri

It’s midnight because the windchimes have replaced
your voice. It’s midnight because the porch chair
rocks as if you’ve just left it. It’s midnight
because the dogs are barking at a raccoon. The moon
begins to limp across the sky. The coyote we saw
chasing those three deer must still be chasing them.
The streetlights shiver behind the branches.
It’s midnight because suddenly there’s this thought
of you that lurks in a distant doorway, a match
someone strikes ominously in the dark, a fear
that has no source and quickly shuts its eyes.
I can hear your name in what the trucks report
from the distant highway. The sky is in rags.
Storms of blackbirds. Sleepwalking stars.
It’s midnight because that thought of you still stands
at the edge of these words like a soldier waiting
for an order, like a hole the unspoken word
drills in his heart. Because it’s midnight,
I turn, terrified at this thought of you, turn
to our room, to you asleep on a sea of nightingales,
to lie beside the midnight of your own troubled
dreams, ashamed for my own foolish fears,
until the dawn shakes the darkness from the wings
of who we are and who we will always be,
until these words, wandering aimlessly, return
like the martin carrying its bright darkness to the feeder.

The Printer’s Error

The Printer’s Error
Aaron Fogel

Fellow compositors
and pressworkers!

I, Chief Printer
Frank Steinman,
having worked fifty-
seven years at my trade,
and served five years
as president
of the Holliston
Printer’s Council,
being of sound mind
though near death,
leave this testimonial
concerning the nature
of printers’ errors.

First: I hold that all books
and all printed
matter have
errors, obvious or no,
and that these are their
most significant moments,
not to be tampered with
by the vanity and folly
of ignorant, academic
textual editors.
Second: I hold that there are
three types of errors, in ascending
order of importance:
One: chance errors
of the printer’s trembling hand
not to be corrected incautiously
by foolish professors
and other such rabble
because trembling is part
of divine creation itself.

Two: silent, cool sabotage
by the printer,
the manual laborer
whose protests
have at times taken this
historical form,
covert interferences
not to be corrected
censoriously by the hand
of the second and far
more ignorant saboteur,
the textual editor.
Three: errors
from the touch of God,
divine and often
obscure corrections
of whole books by
nearly unnoticed changes
of single letters
sometimes meaningful but
about which the less said
by preemptive commentary
the better.
Third: I hold that all three
sorts of error,
errors by chance,
errors by workers’ protest,
and errors by
God’s touch,
are in practice the
same and indistinguishable.

Therefore I,
Frank Steinman,
for thirty-seven years,
and cooperative Master
of the Holliston Guild
eight years,
being of sound mind and body
though near death
urge the abolition
of all editorial work
and manumission
from all textual editing
to leave what was
as it was, and
as it became,
except insofar as editing
is itself an error, and

therefore also divine.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

The edge

The edge
by Bob Hicok

One day the kid showed up with a tattoo of a stapler
on his shoulder. The others had tattoos of geckoes
and fish and the Incredible Hulk, an emerald
Lou Ferrigno against a background of fire. He’d
have been beaten up except they were dazed by it,
not just the precise cursive of the word Swingline
or the luster of the striking plate but the fact
of the stapler itself. He got the last pizza
at lunch and was touched on the wrist by a girl
at the fountain. This made him believe he was real
in a way breathing never had. Over the next
few months he stopped feeling he lived
on the wrong side of the mirror. There
was an election & his name was penciled in
on a few ballots. The guy with the red Camaro
gave him a ride home and let him pick the music.
In second-period French he stood to ask
what Harcourt Brace knew all men wanted to know,
if Monique and Evette would join him Saturday
on the sailboat. First the teacher cried,
then the students sang the Marseillaise
because in four years all he’d ever said
was comment allez-vous? No one questioned the tattoo.
Who’d believe he got up to pee and it was there,
just as the image of the body of Christ
appeared one morning on the thigh
of St. Barthelme of Flours. Otherwise
their stories differ. St. Barthelme was stoned
to death. The kid went to homecoming in a tux
with blue cumulus cuffs and a girl
embarrassed by anything but the slowest dance.

Don’t be trapped by dogma.

No one wants to die, even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there, and yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you.

But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalogue, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stuart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 60’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form thirty-five years before Google came along.

I was idealistic, overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stuart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalogue, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-70’s and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath were the words, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” And I have always wished that for myself, and now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay hungry, stay foolish.

– Steve Jobs, from a commencement speech given at Stanford