What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

– Linda Pastan

Love Poem

I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other

– Linda Pastan

Emily Dickinson

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

– Linda Pastan

The Whistler

“You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better.”

All of a sudden she began to whistle. By all of a sudden
I mean that for more than thirty years she had not
whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was
in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and
she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and
cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds war-
bled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you? Is that you whistling? Yes, she
said. I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can
still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled
through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think. I thought. Elbow and an-
kle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too.
And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin
to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with
for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

– Mary Oliver

Remind Me

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Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

– Stanley Kunitz

Unplanned

That I
am much too old
for you
or that you
are too young for me
these are all
weighty arguments
that would be decisive
in the workshops
where
more enlightened people
cut
their calculated futures
strictly to measure

Planet of the Apes

If there is a designated point at which return
becomes of no return, so far is how far

I am always beyond it.
We sit in the rain of your ancient hangover

and I tell you the story about my dead dad
who spent his sixteenth year digging a giant hole

in a field in Liverpool and never said why (perhaps)
…. I love you.

I love you in the jittering shade of a windmill.
I love you standing in the water wearing the river

like an invisible pair of shoes. I love you here
at the middle of your only life and almost gone

smoking beside your window, light drifting between us
like ghost sequins.

I’ve always never felt this way about anyone
but the way in which I’ve never felt about you

is a way of never feeling so new it’s somehow old
like a cave painting of a fax machine

or falling asleep in the attic of a spaceship.
You make me want to think of you in a sentence with me in it.

You make me want to find a collapsed mineshaft
I can call your name in while searching for you.

You make me want to tell you what you make me want
but what can I even say to you – riding a desk chair

through the afternoon like a patron saint
of remaindered office furniture.

I don’t know what it means
to walk each night into a field alone

and dig, until you are standing in a hole so deep
you cannot be seen above ground.

I don’t know what it means to fall asleep by your window
and wake, let’s say, with the illustrated guide to Planet of the Apes in my hand.

I don’t know what it means to wake each morning and love you
and say nothing, as if nothing

were honesty’s default, or maybe just a way
for me to avoid the stupid things I need to tell you like

looking at you is like looking at a beautiful person far away
through a telescope that makes you seem the size you almost are

which is something I mean but don’t understand
like the new hieroglyphs of songbrids

or how the world in which I am saying this to you
is slowly receding

that looking at you is like looking
backwards out the window of a slow-moving helicopter

into the nineteenth-century cornfield of your face
which my historical inaccuracy

has suddenly emptied of birds.
You make my life feel the size of itself.

You make my life a burning craft
on some distant and unintended hillside.

…. you are the pale green arm
of the Statue of Liberty

reaching up through miles of sand

 

Lies I’ve Told My 3-Year-Old Recently

Trees talk to each other at night.
All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.
Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.
Tiny bears live in drain pipes.
If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.
The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.
Everyone knows at least one secret language.
When nobody is looking, I can fly.
We are all held together by invisible threads.
Books get lonely too.
Sadness can be eaten.
I will always be there.

– Raul Gutierrez

Yesterday Down at the Canal

You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
Russian novel does
I am terribly bored
sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie
other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease
of the kidney
god knows it has nothing to do with the heart
nothing to do with people more interesting than myself
yak yak
that’s an amusing thought
how can anyone be more amusing than oneself
how can anyone fail to be
can i borrow your forty-five
I only need one bullet preferably silver
if you can’t be interesting at least you can be a legend
(but I hate all that crap)

– Frank O’Hara

The Durable Fire

Despite the shit we put each other through –
and even though the trap of your teeth
snapped at my throat as the withering flash
of your anger fired and fell again
and again and I bent my head down beneath
that bitter rain – still I felt
the days that lengthened with you more precisely
themselves than I had ever imagined.
Through the deep rage that distorted our bodies;
through hurt, betrayal, the difficult truths
in search of some myth that might prove more
durable to our selves than each other –
still you step to this page’s bare panopticon,
belovèd, contemptuous of ruin.