When Boredom Gnaws Your Soul

When boredom gnaws your soul, you back-street whore,
You have the world lined up at your door,
The better to obey the jungle's law:
One heart per day, to exercise your jaw!
Your eyes shine bright to advertise your wares,
Like colored lights strung up at country fairs.
What arrogance, to have at your command
A power whose use you cannot understand.

You are the cruel mistress of misrule,
A leech, a blind machine, a useful tool.
How can you show no shame, or see no sign,
When every mirror mimics your decline?
The meaning of this evil you must do -
Hasn't it ever once occurred to you
That nature uses it for her own ends?
Through you - an animal, a queen of sins -
Creates her geniuses from human slime?
Disgusting majesty! dunghill sublime!

- Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)


Such a figure must confound and torment
the shrewdest tailor. Better simply to go swaddled
in next to nothing, a loin cloth, a bath garment.
And forget shoes--that pendulous waddle

would defeat them. Even the flagstones seem depressed
by their near failure, and benches sulk
beneath those buttocks, exuberantly fleshed.
What fool would hurl his will against such bulk?

To try is to be rebuked, repulsed, mocked
as something trifling, a mere pinch, a penny's worth,
deluded to believe oneself a man of stock
and substance without such gravitas, such girth.

Will those limbs find rest in any spot?
Do they even build bedframes so vast, so strong?
How does one person grow so huge? Ah, but she’s not
one person, now is she. Not quite. Not for long.

- Gabriel Spera

Tao Te Ching #3

If you over-esteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.

The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.

- Lao-tzu (550? B.C.E.)

Big Poor Blues

The grass is never greener than when you're deepest in debt--
How is that? Tin cup on the countertop; breadcrumbs
On the floor. This house sits on this corner lot like..., what?
Some bricks and a few windows?

O, let's fire it up, Honey; let's our howl
Down--let's our broken shimmer shine!

It's summer and it's night.
There's a breeze in the tin palm, a breeze in the live oak.
The Spanish moss is swaying like a worry-woman, her cloudy light
shining like an empty street.

This chip-brick, broke-backed rat house--
This weed garden seething all its greens--

I'm so poor, my stars shine on Jesus. My blood erupts.
Are you kidding me--? Who's going to follow a trail of crabber's
To my door?

- Jay Hopler

Five Ways to Kill a Man

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this
properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
and some round hats made of steel.

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch. All you then
require is an ocean to separate you, two
systems of government, a nation’s scientist,
several factories, a psychopath and
land that no-one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways
to kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat
is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

- Edwin Brock (1927-1997)

Beloved, my Beloved

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think
That thou wast in the world a year ago,
What time I sat alone here in the snow
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
No moment at thy voice, but, link by link,
Went counting all my chains as if that so
They never could fall off at any blow
Struck by thy possible han, --why, thus I drink
Of life's great cup of wonder! Wonderful,
Never to feel thee thrill the day or night
With personal act of speech,--nor ever cull
Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,
Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

I Love You as I Love the Night Itself

I love you as I love the night itself,
And all the more, the more you grow aloof
And beautiful, and sad, and taciturn,
The more you seem, ironically, to spurn
My melancholy arms, and magnify
The space that separates me from the sky.

I rise to the attack, mount an assault
Like worms that climb a corpse within a vault,
And prize your cold disdain -- you cruel beast!
That makes me yet more avid at the feast.

- Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)

The Conjuror

Arriving early at the cemetery
For 'the one o'clock', we looked around
At the last sparks of other people's grief,
The flowers fading back into the ground.

A card inscribed "With reverent sympathy
From the Magicians Club' was propped against
A top hat made of blossoms and a wand
Tied with a black velvet bow. We sensed

The rabbits and the ladies sawn in half
One blink away from being visible
Although the quick deceiving hand was changing
To flyaway dust under a ton of soil.

The funeral that we came for turned the corner.
They had been right to think the world of you,
Who conjured up for us, a hearse approaching,
An interest in life. Bravo. Bravo.

- Patricia Beer (1924-1999)


A whole field of grasses
blazing in tribe and genus,
and here's my heart: last year's dried-up fruit.

I waited for you: my iconic prince
my ghost-robed invalid, my great regret.
Give others the lavender and aster

the lupine, the blazingstar.
I like the bitter stuff. Lay me in the water
with beggar-ticks and coltsfoot.

Anyone can choose pretty. It takes
a half-grown woman to choose wild.

- Lisa Ortiz

Woodland Burial

Don't lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall,
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold,
Little seeds investigate, and tender leaves unfold,
There, kindly and affectionately plant a native tree,
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way
To build the fine and bountiful from closure and decay,
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done
I'll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.

- Pam Ayres (1947-)

Desire Boat

On an island of sugar sand
we are bone thin.

I wait up for you. In the morning
my eye sockets are two dredged harbors.

The Buddha said: spread your heart like a rug
for company. Sweep it.

You are the only visitor I want. The rocking does not stop
even after months on the mountain.

Were I farmer, I would grow seas
of flowers and grains: you could row home.

I close my eyes and the boat tilts. You
hold me as we go under.

- Lisa Ortiz

Absent One (for Muriel Ruskeyser)

People keep seeing you and telling me
how white you are, how thin you are.
I have not seen you for a year, but slowly you are
forming above my head, white as
petals, white as milk, the dark
narrow stems of your ankles and wrists,
until you are always with me, a flowering
branch suspended over my life.

- Sharon Olds (1942-)

the Queen

I have named you queen.
There are taller ones than you, taller.
There are purer ones than you, purer.
There are lovelier ones than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

When you go through the streets
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
at the carpet of red gold
that you tread as you pass,
the nonexistent carpet.

And when you appear
all the rivers sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.

- Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Exotic Scent

I close my eyes and the smell of your brown
Breast in the warm fall night takes me away...
I see the sands of an enchanted bay
Emblazoned by a sun that won't go down,

A languid isle of lean and virile men,
Where one needs nothing Nature won't supply,
Whose women look you frankly in the eye,
Astonishingly ignorant of sin.

Impelled by every breath that I inhale
I find a harbor filled with mast and sail,
Exhausted now from fighting waves and winds.

And in my soul a synthesis begins
Of sailor songs and pungent tamarinds,
Whose tantalizing fragrance never ends.

- Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Tao Te Ching #2

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

- Lao-tzu (550? B.C.E.)

Wings of Desire

People are distracted by objects of desire,
and afterward repent of the lust they've
because they have indulged with a phantom
and are left even farther from Reality than
Your desire for the illusory could be a wing,
by means of which a seeker might ascent to
When you have indulged a lust, your wing drops
you become lame, abandoned by a fantasy.
Preserve the wing and don't indulge such lust,
so that the wing of desire may bear you to
People fancy they are enjoying themselves,
but they are really tearing out their wings
for the sake of an illusion.

- Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

On the Death of Anne Bronte

THERE's little joy in life for me,
And little terror in the grave;
I've lived the parting hour to see
Of one I would have died to save.

Calmly to watch the failing breath,
Wishing each sigh might be the last;
Longing to see the shade of death
O'er those beloved features cast.

The cloud, the stillness that must part
The darling of my life from me;
And then to thank God from my heart,
To thank Him well and fervently;

Although I knew that we had lost
The hope and glory of our life;
and now, benighted, tempest-tossed,
Must bear alone the weary strife.

- Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855)