Family

F
Little Crow's Ear Nettled by the Slash-eyed Journey by Duane Niatum
Duane Niatum
I was born to a family wrapped
inside the wallpaper of two worlds,
drumming the other's disappearance.
My voice grew into an impulse of blood wars red and white.

Running between winter and spring
I awoke to a nightmare of spit and bile.
My grandfather said I must earn my tracks in the night.
The earth surged and oozed
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Blues for Hal Waters by Bob Kaufman
Bob Kaufman
My head, my secret cranial guitar, strung with myths plucked from
Yesterday's straits, it's buried in robes of echoes, my eyes breezeless bags, lacquered to present a glint . . .
My marble lips, entrance to that cave, where visions renounce renunciation,
Eternity has wet sidewalks, angels are busted for drunk flying.
I only want privacy to create an illusion of me blotted out.
His high hopes were placed in his coffin. Long paddles of esteem for his symbol canoe.
If I move to the stars, forward my mail c/o God, Heaven, Lower East Side.
Too late for skindiving and other modern philosophies, put my ego in storage.
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Cherries by Gerald Stern
Gerald Stern
I was waiting to try out one of my inventions
from the flattop garage roof — parachutes this time — 
when I tasted a black cherry from the next yard, wondering even at that age
who had prior rights and what was constitutional
so instead of  jumping I wrote a brief brief
called Yaakov vs. the Tree Trunk
where everyone laughed herself crazy
at Marlboro vs. Madison
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The Oppressionists by Jayne Cortez
Jayne Cortez
Art
what do the art
suppressors
care about art
they jump on bandwagons
wallow in press clips
& stink up the planet
with their
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Day Bump by John Ashbery
John Ashbery
Whether the harborline or the east shoreline
consummated it was nobody’s biz until you got there,
eyelids ashimmer, content with one more dispensation
from blue above. And just like we were saying,
the people began to show some interest
in the mud-choked harbor. It could be summer again
for all anyone in our class knew.
Yeah, that’s right. Bumped from our dog-perch,
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Poem by Paul Carroll
Paul Carroll
Fall a scrimage of yellow leaves today
All over Lincoln Park
Like the mask of the Yellow Mule who travels between the next
world and Tibet inside its house of glass in the Field
Museum by the lake.
I am carrying the night.
I am carrying it as if it were a dark blue dish with stars
for the dinner of the Dalai Lama.
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Alms for the Beekeeper by John Ashbery
John Ashbery
He makes better errors that way.
Pass it around at breakfast:
the family and all, down there with a proximate sense of power,
lawyering up. Less log-heavy, your text-strategy
beat out other options, is languid.
Duets in the dust start up,
begin. Again.

He entered the firm at night.
The 26th is a Monday.
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Now I knew I lost her — (1274) by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Now I knew I lost her —
Not that she was gone —
But Remoteness travelled
On her Face and Tongue.

Alien, though adjoining
As a Foreign Race —
Traversed she though pausing
Latitudeless Place.
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Northumberland House by Stevie Smith
Stevie Smith
I was always a thoughtful youngster,
Said the lady on the omnibus,
I remember Father used to say,
You are more thoughtful than us.

I was sensitive too, the least thing
Upset me so much,
I used to cry if a fly
Stuck in the hatch.

Mother always said,
Elsie is too good,
There’ll never be another like Elsie,
Touch wood.

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Fabrication of Ancestors by Alan Dugan
Alan Dugan
For old Billy Dugan, shot in the ass in the Civil war, my father said. The old wound in my ass
has opened up again, but I
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Beginning with 1914 by Lisel Mueller
Lisel Mueller
Since it always begins
in the unlikeliest place
we start in an obsolete country
on no current map. The camera
glides over flower beds,
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Against Gregariousness by Clive James
Clive James
Facing the wind, the hovering stormy petrels
Tap-dance on the water.
They pluck the tuna hatchlings
As Pavlova, had she been in a tearing hurry,
Might once have picked up pearls
From a broken necklace.

Yellowfin drive the turbine of sardines
Up near the surface so the diving shearwaters
Can fly down through the bubbles and get at them.
Birds from above and big fish from below
Rip at the pack until it comes apart
Like Poland, with survivors in single figures.

The krill, as singletons almost not there
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Chewing slowly by Kabir
Kabir
god my darling
do me a favour and kill my mother-in-law
—Janabai, tr. Arun Kolatkar Chewing slowly,
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The First Sam Hazo at the Last by Samuel Hazo
Samuel Hazo
A minor brush with medicine
in eighty years was all
he’d known.
But this was different.
His right arm limp and slung,
his right leg dead to feeling
and response, he let me spoon him
chicken-broth.
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Conversation 23: On Cause by Rosmarie Waldrop
Rosmarie Waldrop
I step into my mother’s room, she says, and though a woman’s body is a calendar of births and injunctions to death, time disappears. Only dead enough to bury could prove sound to silence or the anxiety I know by heart and lung. In my mother’s room. The tie between us anticipates any move to sever it. Terror and lack of perspective. The river runs clear without imparting its clarity, whether we step into it or not.



Deep in the bones, he says. If a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can cause a storm in Rhode Island, how much more the residues of radiation, family resemblance and past rituals. The stove glows red. Thin apple trees line the road. You think you are taking a clean sheet of paper, and it’s already covered with signs, illegible, as by child’s hand.



The heart has its rhythm of exchange, she says, without surplus or deficit. Mine murmurs your name while conjugating precise explosions with valves onto the infinite. I take it down with me, in the body, to develop in a darkroom of my own. They way the current elongates our reflection in the river and seems to carry it off.



A death without corruption is the promise of photography, he says. Focus and light meter translating a cut of flesh into a tense past laughing its red off. But the film’s too clear. Even if smudged with fingerprints. Even if the light falls into the arms of love.
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A Declaration, Not of Independence by Ralph Salisbury
Ralph Salisbury
for my mother and father Apparently I’m Mom’s immaculately-conceived
Irish-American son, because,
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Grandmother Eliza by Nora Marks Dauenhauer
Nora Marks Dauenhauer
My grandmother Eliza
was the family surgeon.
Her scalpel made from a pocketknife
she kept in a couple of pinches of snoose.
She saved my life by puncturing
my festering neck twice with her knife.
She saved my brother’s life twice
when his arm turned bad.
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Shipwreck in Haven, Part Four by Keith Waldrop
Keith Waldrop
I


Fate is cleverer than the king
of Babylon. Shadow of yew
fall through windows onto

the floor of the nave and
touch the pillars with tattered
shade. You claim the dearest wish of your

life is to sink into a soul-freezing
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A Man in Blue by James Schuyler
James Schuyler
Under the French horns of a November afternoon
a man in blue is raking leaves
with a wide wooden rake (whose teeth are pegs
or rather, dowels). Next door
boys play soccer: “You got to start
over!” sort of. A round attic window
in a radiant gray house waits like a kettledrum.
“You got to start . . .” The Brahmsian day
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The Amen Stone by Yehuda Amichai
Yehuda Amichai
On my desk there is a stone with the word “Amen” on it,
a triangular fragment of stone from a Jewish graveyard destroyed
many generations ago. The other fragments, hundreds upon hundreds,
were scattered helter-skelter, and a great yearning,
a longing without end, fills them all:
first name in search of family name, date of death seeks
dead man’s birthplace, son’s name wishes to locate
name of father, date of birth seeks reunion with soul
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Religious Instruction by Mina Loy
Mina Loy
This misalliance
follows the custom
for female children
To adhere to maternal practices

While the atheist father presides over
the prattle of the churchgoer
with ironical commentary from his arm-chair

But by whichever
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The Town Dump by Howard Nemerov
Howard Nemerov
“The art of our necessities is strange,
That can make vile things precious.” A mile out in the marshes, under a sky
Which seems to be always going away
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Feuilleton 5: The Buskers by Christopher Middleton
Christopher Middleton
Four buskers almost balkanized, tonight,
August 4th, the Place de la Contrescarpe.

Every one of them in wind and limb complete,
The accordionist all but a hunchback--

After the first melodious flourishes were done,
The clarinet began to take his instrument apart,

Blowing shorter tunes, to show the way it worked;
But on a keyboard hanging from his neck
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Metals Metals by Russell Edson
Russell Edson
Out of the golden West, out of the leaden East, into the iron South, and to the silver North . . . Oh metals metals everywhere, forks and knives, belt buckles and hooks . . . When you are beaten you sing. You do not give anyone a chance . . .

You come out of the earth and fly with men. You lodge in men. You hurt them terribly. You tear them. You do not care for anyone.

Oh metals metals, why are you always hanging about? Is it not enough that you hold men’s wrists? Is it not enough that we let you in our mouths?

Why is it you will not do anything for yourself? Why is it you always wait for men to show you what to be?

And men love you. Perhaps it is because you soften so often.
You did, it is true, pour into anything men asked you to. It has always proved you to be somewhat softer than you really are.

Oh metals metals, why are you always filling my house?
You are like family, you do not care for anyone.
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Our Family Tree by Joseph Cephas Holly
Joseph Cephas Holly
On the death of my sister Cecilia—the last of five members of the family, who died successively. Our family tree is in the sear
And yellow leaf of life;
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Poverty by Jane Taylor
Jane Taylor
I saw an old cottage of clay,
And only of mud was the floor;
It was all falling into decay,
And the snow drifted in at the door.

Yet there a poor family dwelt,
In a hovel so dismal and rude;
And though gnawing hunger they felt,
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Filling Station by Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bishop
Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
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from By the Well of Living and Seeing, Part II, Section 1: “Leaving the beach on a Sunday in a streetcar” by Charles Reznikoff
Charles Reznikoff
Leaving the beach on a Sunday in a streetcar
a family of three—mother, son and daughter:
the mother, well on in the thirties, blond hair, worried face;
the son, twelve years of age or so, seated opposite,
and the daughter, about eight or nine, beside her.
The boy was blond, too; a good-looking little fellow
with dreamy eyes. The little girl was quite plain;
mouth pulled down at the corners,
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No Classes! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
No classes here! Why, that is idle talk.
The village beau sneers at the country boor;
The importuning mendicants who walk
Our cites’ streets despise the parish poor.

The daily toiler at some noisy loom
Holds back her garments from the kitchen aid.
Meanwhile the latter leans upon her broom,
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1977: Poem for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer by June Jordan
June Jordan
You used to say, “June?
Honey when you come down here you
supposed to stay with me. Where
else?”
Meanin home
against the beer the shotguns and the
point of view of whitemen don’
never see Black anybodies without
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Apologies to All the People in Lebanon by June Jordan
June Jordan
Dedicated to the 600,000 Palestinian men, women, and children who lived in Lebanon from 1948-1983. I didn’t know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

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Autumn by Grace Paley
Grace Paley
1

What is sometimes called a
tongue of flame
or an arm extended burning
is only the long
red and orange branch of
a green maple
in early Septemberreaching
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Bungee Jumping by William H. Dickey
William H. Dickey
Aunt Mildred tied up her petticoats with binder’s
twine, and my great-uncle Ezekiel waxed and waxed
his moustaches into flexibility. It was the whole
family off then into the dangerous continent of air

and while the salesman with the one gold eyetooth told us
the cords at our ankles were guaranteed to stretch
to their utmost and then bring us safely back
to the fried chicken and scalloped potatoes of Sunday dinner
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Here Where Coltrane Is by Michael S. Harper
Michael S. Harper
Soul and race
are private dominions,
memories and modal
songs, a tenor blossoming,
which would paint suffering
a clear color but is not in
this Victorian house
without oil in zero degree
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I Close My Eyes by David Ignatow
David Ignatow
I close my eyes like a good little boy at night in bed,
as I was told to do by my mother when she lived,
and before bed I brush my teeth and slip on my pajamas,
as I was told, and look forward to tomorrow.

I do all things required of me to make me a citizen of sterling worth.
I keep a job and come home each evening for dinner. I arrive at the
same time on the same train to give my family a sense of order.

I obey traffic signals. I am cordial to strangers, I answer my
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The Indoors is Endless by Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Tranströmer
It’s spring in 1827, Beethoven
hoists his death-mask and sails off.

The grindstones are turning in Europe’s windmills.
The wild geese are flying northwards.

Here is the north, here is Stockholm
swimming palaces and hovels.

The logs in the royal fireplace
collapse from Attention to At Ease.
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Large Intestine by Anna Swir
Anna Swir
Look in the mirror. Let us both look.
Here is my naked body.
Apparently you like it,
I have no reason to.
Who bound us, me and my body?
Why must I die
together with it?
I have the right to know where the borderline
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A Magic Mountain by Czeslaw Milosz
Czeslaw Milosz
I don’t remember exactly when Budberg died, it was either two years
ago or three.
The same with Chen. Whether last year or the one before.
Soon after our arrival, Budberg, gently pensive,
Said that in the beginning it is hard to get accustomed,
For here there is no spring or summer, no winter or fall.

“I kept dreaming of snow and birch forests.
Where so little changes you hardly notice how time goes by.
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Memorial Day by Michael Anania
Michael Anania
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar—
a willow tree by a curving roadway
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;

damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,
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Revelation at Cap Ferrat by Clarence Major
Clarence Major
It’s not solely the dance
of the juggler but his spirit:
with its turkey wings, perfect thighs,
sensuous hips, large round flat eye.
This eye smiles like lips.
Watch this eye—
it’s not a donkey eye.

It’s not solely the dancer
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The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
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A Song for Soweto by June Jordan
June Jordan
At the throat of Soweto
a devil language falls
slashing
claw syllables to shred and leave
raw
the tongue of the young
girl
learning to sing
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Street Musicians by John Ashbery
John Ashbery
One died, and the soul was wrenched out
Of the other in life, who, walking the streets
Wrapped in an identity like a coat, sees on and on
The same corners, volumetrics, shadows
Under trees. Farther than anyone was ever
Called, through increasingly suburban airs
And ways, with autumn falling over everything:
The plush leaves the chattels in barrels
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The Tennis Court Oath by John Ashbery
John Ashbery
What had you been thinking about
the face studiously bloodied
heaven blotted region
I go on loving you like water but
there is a terrible breath in the way all of this
You were not elected president, yet won the race
All the way through fog and drizzle
When you read it was sincere the coasts
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Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest
Edgar Albert Guest
Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
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To Elsie by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams
The pure products of America
go crazy—
mountain folk from Kentucky

or the ribbed north end of
Jersey
with its isolate lakes and

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
old names
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from The True Born Englishman by Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
That het’rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
Whose gend’ring off-spring quickly learn’d to bow,
And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
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Vandergast and the Girl by Louis Simpson
Louis Simpson
Vandergast to his neighbors—
the grinding of a garage door
and hiss of gravel in the driveway.

He worked for the insurance company
whose talisman is a phoenix
rising in flames ... non omnis moriar.
From his desk he had a view of the street—

translucent raincoats, and umbrellas,
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The Ballad of Rudolph Reed by Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks
Rudolph Reed was oaken.
His wife was oaken too.
And his two good girls and his good little man
Oakened as they grew.

“I am not hungry for berries.
I am not hungry for bread.
But hungry hungry for a house
Where at night a man in bed
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Bears at Raspberry Time by Hayden Carruth
Hayden Carruth
Fear. Three bears
are not fear, mother
and cubs come berrying
in our neighborhood

like any other family.
I want to see them, or any
distraction. Flashlight
poking across the brook
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Belief by Josephine Miles
Josephine Miles
Mother said to call her if the H-bomb exploded
And I said I would, and it about did
When Louis my brother robbed a service station
And lay cursing on the oily cement in handcuffs.

But by that time it was too late to tell Mother,
She was too sick to worry the life out of her
Over why why. Causation is sequence
And everything is one thing after another.
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from A Bibliography of the King’s Book or, Eikon Basilike by Susan Howe
Susan Howe
II. Conversion


I like to be stationary.
—Bartleby


Who is not a wild Enthusiast

in a green meadow

furious and fell

Arriving on the stage of history
I saw madness of the world
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Clan Meeting: Births and Nations: A Blood Song by Michael S. Harper
Michael S. Harper
We reconstruct lives in the intensive
care unit, pieced together in a buffet
dinner: two widows with cancerous breasts
in their balled hands; a 30-year-old man
in a three-month coma
from a Buick and a brick wall;
a woman who bleeds off and on from her gullet;
a prominent socialite, our own nurse,
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Fabrication of Ancestors by Alan Dugan
Alan Dugan
For old Billy Dugan, shot in the ass in the Civil War, my father said. The old wound in my ass
has opened up again, but I
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Family by Josephine Miles
Josephine Miles
When you swim in the surf off Seal Rocks, and your family
Sits in the sand
Eating potato salad, and the undertow
Comes which takes you out away down
To loss of breath loss of play and the power of play
Holler, say
Help, help, help. Hello, they will say,
Come back here for some potato salad.
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FLIGHT TO LIMBO by John Updike
John Updike
(At What Used to Be Called Idlewild) The line didn’t move, though there were not
many people in it. In a half-hearted light
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Grandfather by Michael S. Harper
Michael S. Harper

In 1915 my grandfather’s
neighbors surrounded his house
near the dayline he ran
on the Hudson
in Catskill, NY
and thought they’d burn
his family out
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The Intellectual by Karl Shapiro
Karl Shapiro
What should the wars do with these jigging fools? The man behind the book may not be man,
His own man or the book’s or yet the time’s,
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Meg Merrilies by John Keats
John Keats
Old Meg she was a Gipsy,
And liv'd upon the Moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.

Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants pods o' broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
Her book a churchyard tomb.

Her Brothers were the craggy hills,
Her Sisters larchen trees—
Alone with her great family
She liv'd as she did please.

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Mrs. Kessler by Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters
Mr. Kessler, you know, was in the army,
And he drew six dollars a month as a pension,
And stood on the corner talking politics,
Or sat at home reading Grant’s Memoirs;
And I supported the family by washing,
Learning the secrets of all the people
From their curtains, counterpanes, shirts and skirts.
For things that are new grow old at length,
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My Last Dance by Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe
The shell of objects inwardly consumed
Will stand, till some convulsive wind awakes;
Such sense hath Fire to waste the heart of things,
Nature, such love to hold the form she makes.

Thus, wasted joys will show their early bloom,
Yet crumble at the breath of a caress;
The golden fruitage hides the scathèd bough,
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The Photos by Diane Wakoski
Diane Wakoski
My sister in her well-tailored silk blouse hands me
the photo of my father
in naval uniform and white hat.
I say, “Oh, this is the one which Mama used to have on her dresser.”

My sister controls her face and furtively looks at my mother,
a sad rag bag of a woman, lumpy and sagging everywhere,
like a mattress at the Salvation Army, though with no holes or tears,
and says, “No.”
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The Poet Orders His Tomb by Edgar Bowers
Edgar Bowers
I summon up Panofskv from his bed
Among the famous dead
To build a tomb which, since I am not read,
Suffers the stone’s mortality instead;

Which, by the common iconographies
Of simple visual ease,
Usurps the place of the complexities
Of sound survivors once preferred to noise:
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Song of Social Despair by Marvin Bell
Marvin Bell
Ethics without faith, excuse me,
is the butter and not the bread.
You can’t nourish them all, the dead
pile up at the hospital doors.
And even they are not so numerous
as the mothers come in maternity.

The Provider knows his faults—
love of architecture and repair—
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University by Karl Shapiro
Karl Shapiro
To hurt the Negro and avoid the Jew
Is the curriculum. In mid-September
The entering boys, identified by hats,
Wander in a maze of mannered brick
Where boxwood and magnolia brood
And columns with imperious stance
Like rows of ante-bellum girls
Eye them, outlanders.
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Vasectomy by Philip Appleman
Philip Appleman
After the steaming bodies swept
through the hungry streets of swollen cities;
after the vast pink spawning of family
poisoned the rivers and ravaged the prairies;
after the gamble of latex and
diaphragms and pills;
I invoked the white robes, gleaming blades
ready for blood, and, feeling the scourge
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The View from an Attic Window by Howard Nemerov
Howard Nemerov
for Francis and Barbara 1
Among the high-branching, leafless boughs
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Was He Married? by Stevie Smith
Stevie Smith
Was he married, did he try
To support as he grew less fond of them
Wife and family?

No,
He never suffered such a blow.

Did he feel pointless, feeble and distrait,
Unwanted by everyone and in the way?

From his cradle he was purposeful,
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Candles by Carl Dennis
Carl Dennis
If on your grandmother's birthday you burn a candle
To honor her memory, you might think of burning an extra
To honor the memory of someone who never met her,
A man who may have come to the town she lived in
Looking for work and never found it.
Picture him taking a stroll one morning,
After a month of grief with the want ads,
To refresh himself in the park before moving on.
Suppose he notices on the gravel path the shards
Of a green glass bottle that your grandmother,
Then still a girl, will be destined to step on
When she wanders barefoot away from her school picnic
If he doesn't stoop down and scoop the mess up
With the want-ad section and carry it to a trash can.

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SMOKE by Philip Levine
Philip Levine
Can you imagine the air filled with smoke?
It was. The city was vanishing before noon
or was it earlier than that? I can't say because
the light came from nowhere and went nowhere.

This was years ago, before you were born, before
your parents met in a bus station downtown.
She'd come on Friday after work all the way
from Toledo, and he'd dressed in his only suit.

Back then we called this a date, some times
a blind date, though they'd written back and forth
for weeks. What actually took place is now lost.
It's become part of the mythology of a family,

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