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Sunday, May 11, 2014


Zero Plus Anything Is A World
~Jane Hirshfield

Four less one is three.

Three less two is one.

One less three
is what, is who,

The first cell that learned to divide
learned to subtract.
add salt to hunger.

add time to trees.

Zero plus anything
is a world.

This one
and no other,
by each breath changed.

add death to life.

love without swerve what this will bring.

Sister, father, mother, husband, daughter.

Like a cello
forgiving one note as it goes,

then another.


Getting Close

Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me

Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she
   lingers, sound tattoos.

I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket
of a camel hair coat.

I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little
   change purse with its curled and fitted snap.

My mother bought this for me. This was my mother's.

I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.

In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942
   they left the dog behind.

When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me.

Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age.

I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet of sole for two.

From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in
   the small rectangle.

Put on something nice. Let him splurge and take you out for
   dinner, my mother whispers on the glass. 

The Major Subjects           Lawrence Raab

Death is easier
than love. And true feeling, as someone said,
leaves no memory. Or else memory
replaces the past, which we know
never promised to be true.

Consider the sea cucumber:
when attacked it divides, sacrificing half
so that half
won't get eaten. Can the part left undevoured
figure out what to do?

The natural world is always instructive,
mysterious as well, but often
hard to praise. Love
is also difficult—the way it slides into
so many other subjects,

like murder, deceit,
and the moon. As my mother used to say
about anything
we couldn't find: If it had been
a snake it would have bitten you.

Fellow poets, we must
learn again to copy from nature,
see for ourselves
how steadfastly even its beauty
refuses to care or console. 

'A woman knows when to be inside and when to be outside, her mother’s only useful lesson, and of course when to be neither.' Guy Davenport, from “A Field of Snow on the Slope of the Rosenberg” in Da Vinci’s Bicycle



I’ll give you that red one.
When we were the poorest,
mom paid my weekly allowance
in birds. That one is yours, she whispered

so as not to disturb it.
If you clean the oven

In a few months
I owned all the birds on the street,
blue jays, finches, a lame owl

cowled in the clock tower.
We had to walk farther each Saturday
to find a new fountain or thicket


so mother could pay me what she owed.
We stood on a bridge.
Our soldiers were marching away,

and trying to sound brave.
Their numbers were staggering.

I invented a mathematics
to understand them.
I subtracted them from summer

and it was winter. Most of our houses
were gone, and the birds too.
The university had been bombed

with my father inside, attending a reading
by some Polish poets.
The poems were so sturdy, he said,

they held up the dome of the ceiling.

Family Portrait                                James Allen Hall
If I could turn the photograph, bring my mother's face
to the bright eye of myth, my unflinching lens,
you'd see she's mouthing the words: Take the picture already.

You'd see my father's lust, his loathing
molding her body into some four-legged
photogenic thing, whipped and adored.

You'd see my mother emerging from the ghost world
limb by limb, carrying on her bowed shoulders
Eros and his sadomasochistic twin.

In the dim violated light, she's marked
by a man who can't let any part of her go.
In the light my father makes in the dark,
I was mothered into art. 

To See My Mother                                                Sharon Olds

It was like witnessing the earth being formed,
to see my mother die, like seeing
the dry lands be separated
from the oceans, and all the mists bear up
on one side, and all the solids
be borne down, on the other, until
the body was all there, all bronze and
petrified redwood opal, and the soul all
gone. If she hadn't looked so exalted, so
beast-exalted and refreshed and suddenly
hopeful, more than hopeful—beyond
hope, relieved—if she had not been suffering so
much, since I had met her, I do not
know how I would have stood it, without
fighting someone, though no one was there
to fight, death was not there except
as her, my task was to hold her tiny
crown in one cupped hand, and her near
birdbone shoulder. Lakes, clouds,
nests. Winds, stems, tongues.
Embryo, zygote, blastocele, atom,
my mother's dying was like an end
of life on earth, some end of water
and moisture salt and sweet, and vapor,
till only that still, ocher moon
shone, in the room, mouth open, no song.
Sleep Chains                 Anne Carson
Who can sleep when she —
hundreds of miles away I feel that vast breath
fan her restless decks.
Cicatrice by cicatrice
all the links
rattle once.
Here we go mother on the shipless ocean.
Pity us, pity the ocean, here we go.


Lament for the Makers                                                     Frank Bidart

Not bird not badger not beaver not bee

Many creatures must
make, but only one must seek
within itself what to make

My father's ring was a B with a dart
through it, in diamonds against polished black stone.

I have it. What parents leave you
is their lives.

Until my mother died she struggled to make
a house that she did not loathe; paintings; poems; me.

Many creatures must

make, but only one must seek
within itself what to make

Not bird not badger not beaver not bee
Teach me, masters who by making were
remade, your art. 

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