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Oct. 23rd, 2006

The Russian by Robert Bly

The Russian

“The Russian had few doctors on the front line.
My father's job was this: after the battle
Was over, he'd walk among the men hit,
Sit down and ask: 'Would you like to die on your
Own in a few hours, or should I finish it?'
Most said, 'Don't leave me.' The two would have
A cigarette. He'd take out his small notebook-
We had not dogtags, you know- and write the man's
Name down, his wife's, his children, his address, and what
he wanted to say. When the cigarette was done,
The soldier would turn his head to the side. My father
Finished off four hundred me that way during the war.
He never went crazy. They were his people.

He came to Toronto. My father in the summers
Would stand on the lawn with a hose, watering
The grass that way. It took a long time. He'd talk
To the moon, to the wind. 'I can hear you growing'-
He'd say to the grass. 'We come and go.
We're no different from each other. We are all
Part of something. We have a home.' When I was thirteen,
I said, 'Dad, do you know they've invented sprinklers
Now?' He went on watering the grass.
“This is my life. Just shut up if you don't understand it.”
-Robert Bly

Oct. 22nd, 2006

Litany by Billy Collins


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine.
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass,
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron and the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

An a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's teacup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and-somehow-
the wine.
-Billy Collins

Snowbanks North of the House by Robert Bly

Snowbanks North of the House

The great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six feet from the house...
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a party and lives him no
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls leaving the church.
It will not come closer-
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch nothing, and are safe.

And the father grieves for his son, and will not leave the room where the
coffin stands;
he turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifts and falls all night; the moon goes on through the
unattached heavens alone.
And the toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust...
The man in the black coat turns, and goes back down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away, and did not climb
the hill.
-Robert Bly

14 from Dream Songs by John Berryman

“Life, friends is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
We ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatedly) 'Ever to confess you're bored
means you has no

Inner Resources.' I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles.

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerable away
into mountains or sea or sky leaving
behind: me, wag.
-John Berryman from The Dream Songs

Sonnet by Billy Collins

All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down the pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.
-Billy Collins

The Breathing, The Endless News by Rita Dove

The Breathing, The Endless News

Every god is lonely, an exile
composed of parts; elk horn,
cloven hoof. Receptacle

for wishes, each god is empty
without us, penitent,
raking our yards into windblown piles....

Children know this: they are
the trailings of gods. Their eyes
hold nothing at birth then fill slowly

With myth of ourselves. Not so the dolls,
out for the count, each toe pouting from
the slumped over toddler clothes:

no blossoming there. So we
give our children dolls, and
they know just what to do-

line, them up and shoot them.
With every execution
doll and god grow stronger.
-Rita Dove

Tyhe Language by Robert Creeley

The Language

Locate I
love you some-
where in

teeth and
eyes, bite
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

love you

then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full

of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth.
-Robert Creeley

Warning to the Reader by Robert Bly

Warning to the Reader
sometimes farm granaries become especially beautiful when all the
oats or wheat are gone, and wind has swept the rough floor clean.
Standing inside, we see around us, coming in through the cracks
between shrunken wall boards, bands or strips of sunlight. So in a poem
about imprisonment, one sees a little light.
But how many birds have died trapped in these granaries. The bird,
seeing the band of light, flutters up the walls and falls back again and
again. They way out is where the rats enter and leave; but the rat's hole is
low to the floor. Writers, be careful then by showing the sunlight on the
walls not to promise the anxious and panicky blackbirds a way out!
I say to the reader, beware. Reader who love poems of light may sit
hunched in the corner with nothing in their gizzards for four days, light
failing, the eyes glazed...The may end as a mound of feathers and a
skull on the open board wood floor...
-Robert Bly

The Self and the Mulberry by Marvin Bell

The Self and the Mulberry

I wanted to see the self, so I looked at the mulberry.
It had no trouble accepting its limits,
yet defining and redefining a small area
so that any shape was possible, any movement.
It stayed put, but was part of all the air.
I wanted to learn to be there and not there
like the continually changing, slightly moving
mulberry, wild cherry and particularly the willow.
Like the willow, I tried to weep without tears.
Like the cherry tree, I tried to be sturdy and productive.
Like the mulberry, I tried to keep moving.
I couldn't cry right, couldn't stay or go.
I kept losing parts of myself like a soft maple.
I felt ill like the elm, That was the end
of looking in nature to fine the natural self.
Let nature thing itself not manly enough!
Let nature wonder at the mystery of laughter.
Let nature hypothesize man's indifference to it.
Let nature take a turn at saying what love is!
-Marvin Bell