Poem of the Week

The End of the Holidays
by Mark Perlberg

We drop you at O’Hare with your young husband,
two slim figures under paradoxical signs:
United and Departures. The season’s perfect oxymoron.
Dawn is a rumor, the wind bites, but there are things
fathers still can do for daughters.
Off you go looking tired and New Wave
under the airport’s aquarium lights,
with your Coleman cooler and new, long coat,
something to wear to the office and to parties
where down jackets are not de rigeur.
Last week winter bared its teeth.
I think of summer and how the veins in a leaf
come together and divide
come together and divide.
That’s how it is with us now
as you fly west toward your thirties
I set my new cap at a nautical angle, shift
baggage I know I’ll carry with me always
to a nether hatch where it can do only small harm,
haul up fresh sail and point my craft
toward the punctual sunrise.

Poem of the Week

The Drink
by Ron Padgett

I am always interested in the people in films who have just had a drink
thrown in their faces. Sometimes they react with uncontrollable rage,
but sometimes—my favorites—they do not change their expressions at
all. Instead they raise a handkerchief or napkin and calmly dab at the
offending liquid, as the hurler jumps to her feet and storms away. The
other people at the table are understandably uncomfortable. A woman
leans over and places her hand on the sleeve of the man’s jacket and
says, “David, you know she didn’t mean it.” David answers, “Yes,” but
in an ambiguous tone—the perfect adult response. But now the orchestra
has resumed its amiable and lively dance music, and the room is set in
motion as before. Out in the parking lot, however, Elizabeth is setting
fire to David’s car. Yes, this is a contemporary film.

Poem of the Week

Some Woman to Some Man

by Edith Wharton
We might have loved each other after all,
Have lived and learned together! Yet I doubt it;
You asked, I think, too great a sacrifice,
Or else, perhaps, I rate myself too dear.
Whichever way the difference lies between us,
Would common cares have helped to lessen it,
A common interest, and a common lot?
Who knows indeed? We choose our path, and then
Stand looking back and sighing at our choice,
And say: “Perhaps the other road had led
To fruitful valleys dozing in the sun.”
Perhaps—perhaps—but all things are perhaps,
And either way there lies a doubt, you know.
We’ve but one life to live, and fifty ways
To live it in, and little time to choose
The one in fifty that will suit us best,
And so the end is, that we part, and say:
“We might have loved each other after all!”

Poem of the Week

December 1st

by Billy Collins

Today is my mother’s birthday,
but she’s not here to celebrate
by opening a flowery card
or looking calmly out a window.

If my mother were alive,
she’d be 114 years old,
and I am guessing neither of us
would be enjoying her birthday very much.

Mother, I would love to see you again
to take you shopping or to sit
in your sunny apartment with a pot of tea,
but it wouldn’t be the same at 114.

And I’m no prize either,
almost 20 years older than the last time
you saw me sitting by your deathbed.
Some days, I look worse than yesterday’s oatmeal.

Happy Birthday, anyway. Happy Birthday to you.
Here I am in a wallpapered room
raising a glass of birthday whiskey
and picturing your face, the brooch on your collar.

It must have been frigid that morning
in the hour just before dawn
on your first December 1st
at the family farm a hundred miles north of Toronto.

I imagine they had you wrapped up tight,
and there was your tiny pink face
sticking out of the bunting,
and all those McIsaacs getting used to saying your name.

 

Poem of the Week

 

The First Snow

By james Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
   And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
   With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
   Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
   Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
   Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
   And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
   The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
   Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
   Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
   As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
   Saying, “Father, who makes it snow?”
And I told of the good All-father
   Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
   And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
   When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
   That fell from that cloud-like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
   The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
   “The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
   Alone can make it fall!”

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
   And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
   Folded close under deepening snow.