This is the eleventh poetry page posted on Think in the Morning. We choose poems we like based only on our own tastes. Each poem is paired with an original piece of napkin art produced at the Sea Gull Cellar Bar in Mendocino, CA from 1977 – 1985. We identify the artist when possible. Our goal is to make the napkin art readily available to all those interested and to highlight the benefits of reading poetry. If you look back at earlier posts you can find all the previous poetry pages on our site.
Sweet Hernia on the heights of Plasticine
Sings to the nylon songs of Brassiere;
The very aspirins listen, as they lean
Against the vitreous wind, to her sad air.
I see the bloom of mayonnaise she holds
Coloured like roofs of far away Shampoo.
Its asthma sweetens Earth! Oh, it enfolds
The alum land from Urine to Cachou!
One last wild gusset, then she’s lost in night…
And dusk the dandruff dims, and anthracite.
source: Stephen King favorite stanzas of poetry
—after Richard Brautigan’s “A Candlelion Poem”
What began as wildfire ends up
on a candle wick. In reverse,
it is contained,
a lion head in a hunter’s den.
Bigger than one I played
with matches and twigs and glass
in the shade.
When I was young, there was no sun
and I was afraid.
Now, in grownhood, I call the ghost
to my fragile table, my fleshy supper,
my tiny flame.
Not just any old, but THE ghost,
the last one I will be,
the future me,
finally the sharpest knife
in the drawer.
The pride is proud.
The crowd is loud, like garbage dumping
or how a brown bag ripping
sounds like a shout
that tells the town the house
is burning down.
Drowns out some small folded breath
of otherlife: O that of a lioness licking her cubs to sleep in a dream of
O that roaring, not yet and yet
and not yet dead.
So many fires start in my head.
Hamlet, Act III, Scene I, To Be or Not to Be
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
Ode to Big Trend
Pretty soon the Negroes were looking to get paid.
My partner, Big Trend, wiped his ox neck and said
He wasn’t going to wait too much longer. You
know that look your daddy gets before he whups you?
That’s how Big Trend looked. There was a pink scar
Meddling his forehead. Most people assumed a bear
Like him couldn’t read anything but a dollar,
But I’d watched him tour the used bookstore
In town and seen him napping so I knew he held more
Than power in those hands. They could tear
A Bible in two. Sometimes on the walk home I’d hear
Him reciting poems. But come Friday, he was the one
The fellas asked to speak to the boss. He’d go alone,
Usually, and left behind, we imagined the boss buckled
Into Trend’s shadow because our money always followed.
So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
BkI:XXVIII Three Handfuls of Earth
Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace)
You, my Archytas, philosopher, and measurer of land,
of the sea, of wide sands, are entombed
in a small mound of meagre earth near the Matinian shore,
and it’s of no use to you in the least,
that you, born to die, have explored the celestial houses
crossed, in spirit, the rounds of the sky.
Tantalus, Pelop’s father, died too, a guest of the gods,
and Tithonus took off to the heavens,
Minos gained entry to great Jupiter’s secrets, Tartarus
holds Euphorbus, twice sent to Orcus,
though he bore witness, carrying his shield there, to Trojan times,
and left nothing more behind, for black Death,
but his skin and his bones, and that certainly made him, Archytas,
to your mind, no trivial example
of Nature and truth. But there’s still one night that awaits us all,
and each, in turn, makes the journey of death.
The Furies deliver some as a spectacle for cruel Mars,
the greedy sea’s the sailor’s ruin:
the funerals of the old, and the young, close ranks together,
and no one’s spared by cruel Proserpine.
Me too, the south wind, Notus, swift friend of setting Orion,
drowned deep in Illyrian waters.
O, sailor, don’t hesitate, from spite, to grant a little treacherous
sand, to my unburied bones and skull.
So that, however the east wind might threaten the Italian
waves, thrashing the Venusian woods,
you’ll be safe, yourself, and rich rewards will flow from the source,
from even-handed Jupiter, and from
Neptune, who is the protector of holy Tarentum. Are you
indifferent to committing a wrong
that will harm your innocent children hereafter? Perhaps
a need for justice, and arrogant
disdain, await you, too: don’t let me be abandoned here
my prayers unanswered: no offering
will absolve you. Though you hurry away, it’s a brief delay:
three scattered handfuls of earth will free you.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater’s been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or—
Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!
Your clock’s been turned to zero,
though there is no zero on a clock.
Your skin is petal soft no matter
how old the starter kit was—
but you will get tired or bored.
That’s when the clock starts up.
Your parents want you happy,
but we also want to set you down,
to get back to our old lives.
How will you turn against us
once you figure this out?
You’re about to discover intention.
There are four stuffed animals
in front of you on strings.
They are targets.
You won’t understand this for a while.
You flail your arms.
Sometimes you make one bounce.
Are humans the only creatures
who must learn to move with purpose?
Is that why we harp on motive,
why we think of earth
as some god’s handiwork?
The Tavern Parlor
A giant step up into the dip—
the unavoidable tremble of cocktail tumblers against bottles of bourbon and bitters droning the spitoon.
All dim, unwoken, shut
as the Duchess’s
(née Clare Singleton’s)
dust-caked woodcut gramophone
as the frail jail of Limoges and miniature
salt shakers belling at my footfall
recalled country wenches
doing the quadrille
with speculators’ sons, and Ben
the tavern houseboy, in canary pantaloons
wafting a fan sewn from the tails
of fifty peahens
to keep off the Luciferian flies.
Who Isn’t Selling
Money is a sort of poetry, both
are barely human. And their hypo-
thetical exchange breeds
in me such an unknown
currency I begin
to grunt all animal, my value
rabid on the flux
of loss, stagnation, bitter fruit.
When I think about bitcoin—
I mean, spacetime, I think of the unmet
logic of its gesture, each must
extend to the outer moons
of grief. I keep accounts
of lamentation. I lick a balance
out of grief. I calculate returns on gravity
in living. Orbit those desperate
minor planets until I think
myself back into
an alchemy. Yet at every day
break I see there’s so much
money, shit I mean, there’s so
much light in its newness.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
What Rome Is About
Gretchen Wieners (Mean Girls)
Why should Caesar
Get to stomp around
Like a giant
While the rest of us try not to get smashed under his big feet?
What’s so great about Caesar?
Brutus is just as cute as Caesar
Brutus is just as smart as Caesar
People totally like Brutus
Just as much as they like Caesar
And when did it become okay
For one person
To be the boss of everybody?
Because that’s not what Rome is about
WE SHOULD TOTALLY JUST STAB CAESAR