Alicia Ostriker

A
Alicia Ostriker
Q&A: Insurance
If time is an arrow, what is its target

If a Flexible Flyer is the sled I had as a child, when may I become a child again

Do you need help digging the potatoes out of your garden of insults

Do you plan to vote in the next election

Is our country headed in the right direction or the wrong direction
and what did the bulldozer tell the yellow helmet’s ear

Which part of your body is like biting into a ripe peach
which part shames you like a rotten banana
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The Anniversary 
Of course we failed, by succeeding.
The fiery cherub becomes his smothering.
A greedy heart dives into a dream
Of power or truth, and wakes up middle-aged
In some committee room.
It is eating paper instead of God.
We two are one, my bird, this is a wedding.

When love was war, you swore you’d burn
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Years
—for J.P.O. I have wished you dead and myself dead,
How could it be otherwise.
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April
The optimists among us
taking heart because it is spring
skip along
attending their meetings
signing their e-mail petitions
marching with their satiric signs
singing their we shall overcome songs
posting their pungent twitters and blogs
believing in a better world
for no good reason
I envy them
said the old woman

The seasons go round they
go round and around
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In Every Life
In every life there’s a moment or two
when the self disappears, the cruel wound
takes over, and then again
at times we are filled with sky
or with birds or
simply with the sugary tea on the table
said the old woman

I know what you mean said the tulip
about epiphanies
for instance a cloudless April sky
the approach of a butterfly
but as to the disappearing self
no
I have not yet experienced that
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Soften and Melt
the man made me soften and melt
said the old woman

the bee made me shiver like a rag
said the dark red tulip

the bitch made me push
said the dog


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Song
Some claim the origin of song
was a war cry
some say it was a rhyme
telling the farmers when to plant and reap
don’t they know the first song was a lullaby
pulled from a mother’s sleep
said the old woman

A significant
factor generating my delight in being
alive this springtime
is the birdsong
that like a sweeping mesh has captured me
like diamond rain I can’t
hear it enough said the tulip
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The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog
To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

To be blessed
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Sonnet. To Tell the Truth
To tell the truth, those brick Housing Authority buildings
For whose loveliness no soul had planned,
Like random dominoes stood, worn out and facing each other,
Creating the enclosure that was our home.

Long basement corridors connected one house to another
And had a special smell, from old bicycles and baby carriages
In the storage rooms. The elevators
Were used by kissing teenagers.
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Daffodils
—for David Lehman

Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
—William Wordsworth

Going to hell so many times tears it
Which explains poetry.
—Jack Spicer
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The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz
As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves

The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—
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Three Men Walking, Three Brown Silhouettes
They remember the dead who died in the resistance.
It is in sweet tones that they speak of them.
They shake their heads, still, after the dinner

Walking back to the car, while an evening snow
That has started windlessly, white from pearl-gray,
Falls into streets that are already slushy.

They shake their heads, as we do when there is something
Too strange to believe,
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The Window, at the Moment of Flame
And all this while I have been playing with toys
A toy power station a toy automobile a house of blocks

And all this while far off in other lands
Thousands and thousands, millions and millions—

You know—you see the pictures
Women carrying their bony infants

Men sobbing over graves
Buildings sculpted by explosion
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Matisse, Too
Matisse, too, when the fingers ceased to work,
Worked larger and bolder, his primary colors celebrating
The weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

Monet when the cataracts blanketed his eyes
Painted swirls of rage, and when his sight recovered
Painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

I do not seek, I find, and stuck to that story
About himself, and made that story stick.
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Boil
Boil over—it’s what the nerves do,
Watch them seethe when stimulated,

Murmurs the man at the stove
To the one at the fridge—

Watch that electric impulse that finally makes them
Fume and fizz at either

Frayed end. If you could grasp a bundle
Of nerves in your fist like a jumper cable, and sense that
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The History of America
—for Paul Metcalf A linear projection: a route. It crosses
The ocean in many ships. Arriving in the new
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The Leaf Pile
Now here is a typical children’s story
that happens in gorgeous October
when the mothers are coming
in the afternoon, wearing brisk boots
and windy skirts to pick up
the little children from the day care center

Frost in the air
the maples golden and crimson
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Nude Descending
Like a bowerbird trailing a beakful of weeds
Like prize ribbons for the very best

The lover, producer
Of another’s pleasure

He whom her swollen lips await
Might wing through any day of the decade

A form of health insurance
For which it is never too late
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Saturday Night
Music is most sovereign because more than anything
else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost
soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with
them and imparting grace.
—Plato, The Republic

The cranes are flying ...
—Chekhov
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