Poem for the Day: October 23rd, 2021

SONG: Poems by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Some truck was gunning the night before up Pippin Hill's steep grade
And the doe was thrown wide. This happened five years ago now,
Or six. She must have come out of the woods by Simpson's red trailer—
The one that looks like a faded train car—and the driver
Did not see her. His brakes no good. Or perhaps she hit the truck.
That happens, too. A figure swims up from nowhere, a flying figure
That seems to be made of nothing more than moonlight, or vapor,
Until it slams its face, solid as stone, against the glass.
And maybe when this happens the driver gets out. Maybe not.
Strange about the kills we get without intending them.
Because we are pointed in the direction of something.
Because we are distracted at just the right moment, or the wrong.
We were waiting for the school bus. It was early, but not yet light.
We watched the darkness draining off like the last residue
Of water from a tub. And we didn't speak, because that was our way.
High up a plane droned, drone of the cold, and behind us the flag
In front of the Bank of Hope's branch trailer snapped and popped in the wind.
It sounded like a boy whipping a wet towel against a thigh
Or like the stiff beating of a swan's wings as it takes off
From the lake, a flat drumming sound, the sound of something
Being pounded until it softens, and then—as the wind lowered
And the flag ran out wide—there was a second sound, the sound of running fire.
And there was the scraping, too, the sad knife-against-skin scraping
Of the acres of field corn strung out in straggling rows
Around the branch trailer that had been, the winter before, our town's claim to fame
When, in the space of two weeks, it was successfully robbed twice.
The same man did it both times, in the same manner.
He had a black hood and a gun, and he was so polite
That the embarrassed teller couldn't hide her smile when he showed up again.
They didn't think it could happen twice. But sometimes it does.
Strange about that. Lightning strikes and strikes again.
My piano teacher watched her husband, who had been struck as a boy,
Fall for good, years later, when he was hit again.
He was walking across a cut corn field toward her, stepping over
The dead stalks, holding the bag of nails he'd picked up at the hardware store
Out like a bouquet. It was drizzling so he had his umbrella up.
There was no thunder, nothing to be afraid of.
And then a single bolt from nowhere, and for a moment the man
Was doing a little dance in a movie, a jig, three steps or four,
Before he dropped like a cloth, or a felled bird.
This happened twenty years ago now, but my teacher keeps
Telling me the story. She hums while she plays. And we were humming
That morning by the bus stop. A song about boys and war.
And the thing about the doe was this. She looked alive.
As anything will in the half light. As lawn statues will.
I was going to say as even children playing a game of statues will,
But of course they are alive. Though sometimes
A person pretending to be a statue seems farther gone in death
Than a statue does. Or to put it another way,
Death seems to be the living thing, the thing
The thing that looks out through the eyes. Strange about that . . .
We stared at the doe for a long time and I thought about the way
A hunter slits a deer's belly. I've watched this many times.
And the motion is a deft one. It is the same motion the swan uses
When he knifes the children down by his pond on Wasigan Road.
They put out a hand. And quick as lit grease, the swan's
Boneless neck snakes around in a sideways circle, driving
The bill hard toward the softest spot . . . All those songs
We sing about swans, but they are mean. And up close, often ugly.
That old Wasigan bird is a smelly, moth-eaten thing.
His wings stained yellow as if he chewed tobacco,
His upper bill broken from his foul-tempered strikes.
And he is awkward, too, out of the water. Broken-billed and gaited.
When he grapples down the steep slope, wheezing and spitting,
He looks like some old man recovering from hip surgery,
Slowly slapping down one cursed flat foot, then the next.
But the thing about the swan is this. The swan is made for the water.
You can't judge him out of it. He's made for the chapter
In the rushes. He's like one of those small planes my brother flies.
Ridiculous things. Something a boy dreams up late at night
While he stares at the stars. Something a child draws.
I've watched my brother take off a thousand times, and it's always
The same. The engine spits and dies, spits and catches—
A spurting match—and the machine shakes and shakes as if it were
Stuck together with glue and wound up with a rubber band.
It shimmies the whole way down the strip, past the pond
Past the wind bagging the goose-necked wind sock, past the banks
Of bright red and blue planes. And as it climbs slowly
Into the air, wobbling from side to side, cautious as a rock climber,
Putting one hand forward then the next, not even looking
At the high spot above the tree line that is the question,
It seems that nothing will keep it up, not a wish, not a dare,
Not the proffered flowers of our held breath. It seems
As if the plane is a prey the hunter has lined up in his sights,
His finger pressing against the cold metal, the taste of blood
On his tongue . . . but then, at the dizzying height
Of our dismay, just before the sky goes black,
The climber's frail hand reaches up and grasps the highest rock,
Hauling, with a last shudder, the body over,
The gun lowers, and perfectly poised now, high above
The dark pines, the plane is home free. It owns it all, all.
My brother looks down and counts his possessions,
Strip and grass, the child's cemetery the black tombstones
Of the cedars make on the grassy hill, the wind-scrubbed
Face of the pond, the swan's white stone . . .
In thirty years, roughly, we will all be dead . . . That is one thing . . .
And you can't judge the swan out of the water . . . That is another.
The swan is mean and ugly, stupid as stone,
But when it finally makes its way down the slope, over rocks
And weeds, through the razory grasses of the muddy shallows,
The water fanning out in loose circles around it
And then stilling, when it finally reaches the deepest spot
And raises in slow motion its perfectly articulated wings,
Wings of smoke, wings of air, then everything changes.
Out of the shallows, the lovers emerge, sword and flame,
And over the pond's lone island the willow spills its canopy,
A shifting feast of gold and green, a spell of lethal beauty.
O bird of moonlight. O bird of wish. O sound rising
Like an echo from the water. Grief sound. Sound of the horn.
The same ghostly sound the deer makes when it runs
Through the woods at night, white lightning through the trees,
Through the coldest moments, when it feels as if the earth
Will never again grow warm, lover running toward lover,
The branches tearing back, the mouth and eyes wide,
The heart flying into the arms of the one that will kill her.

© 1994 Brigit Pegeen Kelly. “All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer” first appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 34 No. 4 (Winter 1993) and was published by BOA Editions in 1994 as part of Kelly’s collection SONG: Poems. SONG: Poems was chosen as the 1994 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 21st, 2021

Traveling by Malena Mörling

Like streetlights
still lit
past dawn,
the dead
stare at us
from the framed
photographs.

You may say otherwise,
but there they are,
still here
traveling
continuously
backwards
without a sound
further and further
into the past.

© 2006 Malena Mörling and the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Traveling” appears in Astoria, which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2006 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Manifesting My Goals

Please save your gatekeeping nonsense for someone who gives a fluck because I do not.

First off, my number one goal right now is to actually make my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal this year. I only missed it by two last year, and that ish hurt bad. Am I probably going to have to read a crap ton of short books to make it? Yes. Do they count? Absolutely. Please save your gatekeeping nonsense for someone who gives a fluck because I do not.

My bigger and longer-term goal is to become someone like Oprah. I want to be someone who lives their life authentically and is able to translate that into influence on other people. Honestly, nothing would make me happier than being able to post a list of my favorite things and have people try them out just because I said they were awesome.

I do not want to work until I die. I want to sit down. A lot. Preferably with a good book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

Finally, my last goal is to retire by the age of 40. I do not want to work until I die. I want to sit down. A lot. Preferably with a good book in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. I mean, I’ll probably need to exercise some too, but I’m still holding out hope that science will figure out a way for me to do nothing and be skinny. Let me qualify that. I do not have a problem, aesthetically, with being fat. I know I’m the sexiest motherflucker God ever did carve from clay. That’s not my issue. My issue is that the world we live in makes it incredibly difficult for people of my girth to shop off the rack, and this bish here doesn’t like to shop from a catalog. I want to roll up into my local department stores like Ariana Grande and see it, like it, want it, and got it.

I do not have a problem, aesthetically, with being fat. I know I’m the sexiest motherflucker God ever did carve from clay. That’s not my issue. My issue is that the world we live in makes it incredibly difficult for people of my girth to shop off the rack, and this bish here doesn’t like to shop from a catalog. I want to roll up into my local department stores like Ariana Grande and see it, like it, want it, and got it.

Now, are all of these goals super-specific? No. And right now I don’t want them to be. For most of my life, my anxiety disorder has forced me to exert a large amount of (read: perceived) control over every aspect of my life. And you miss out on a lot of life by trying to force your will on everything. So for me I feel like the best course is operate from a state of grace, to focus on day-to-day living and on taking the next right actions. I know that by doing this, wherever I end up will be the right place for me.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 20th, 2021

Wisdom begins in wonder.

Socrates

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 19th, 2021

Pluto Shits on the Universe by Fatimah Asghar

On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.

It is February 7th, 1979. The sky is blue-gold:
the freedom of possibility.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad.

© 2015 Fatimah Asghar. “Pluto Shits on the Universe” first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Poetry.

“Pluto Shits on the Universe” is now probably in my top ten favorite poems of all time. I love Asghar’s irreverence here, the way she plays with the multiple meanings of certain words. Consider this part of the poem:

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.

Order here conveys certain ideas singularly and in conjunction with one another:

Order as “a state in which everything is in its correct or appropriate place”.*

Order as “the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method”.”

Order as “an authoritative command, direction, or instruction”.*

Order as the opposite of Chaos, in Chaos Theory, which is “an interdisciplinary theory and branch of mathematics focusing on the study of chaos: dynamical systems whose apparently random states of disorder and irregularities are actually governed by underlying patterns and deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to initial conditions”.**

*Definition taken from Oxford Languages

**Definition taken from Wikipedia

There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Chaos like a motherfucker. / And you tried to order me. Called me ninth. There is an acknowledgment of the would-be controlling outside power and its unequivocal rejection. There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad. Y’all. That slaps.

Fatimah Asghar Recites Her Poem, “Pluto Shits on the Universe”

You can learn more about Fatimah Asghar and her work at her website. Her debut poetry collection, If They Come for Us: Poems, was published by One World in August 2018 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 18th, 2021

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The awful shadow of some unseen Power 
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given:
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour:
Frail spells whose utter'd charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance and mutability.
Thy light alone like mist o'er mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers' eyes;
Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call'd on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek'd, and clasp'd my hands in ecstasy!

I vow'd that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision'd bowers
Of studious zeal or love's delight
Outwatch'd with me the envious night:
They know that never joy illum'd my brow
Unlink'd with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past; there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm, to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 17th, 2021

Signs by Larry Levis

All night I dreamed of my home,
of the roads that are so long
and straight they die in the middle—
among the spines of elderly weeds
on either side, among the dead cats,
the ants who are all eyes, the suitcase
thrown open, sprouting failures.

2.
And this evening in the garden
I find the winter
inside a snail shell, rigid and
cool, a little stubborn temple,
its one visitor gone.

3.
If there were messages or signs,
I might hear now a voice tell me
to walk forever, to ask
the mold for pardon, and one
by one I would hear out my sins,
hear they are not important—that I am
part of this rain
drumming its long fingers, and
of the roadside stone refusing
to blink, and of the coyote
nailed to the fence with its
long grin.

And when there are no messages
the dead lie still—
their hands crossed so strangely
like knives and forks after supper.

4.
I stay up late listening.
My feet tap the floor,
they begin a tiny dance
which will outlive me.
They turn away from this poem.
It is almost Spring.

© 2000 University of Pittsburgh Press. “Signs” is taken from The Selected Levis, which was published in 2000 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Selected Levis is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: October 17th, 2021

If there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.

Beyoncé

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 15th, 2021

Notes from the Camoufleurs by Karen Skolfield

The light in Afghanistan
is not the light in Vietnam.
If  vegetation, describe the leaf.

If  rock, its striation. If city, its doorways
and lintels, its hosting of guests.
Its gestures of welcome and warning.

Describe the wattage of searchlights,
the color of streetlamps, the wakefulness
of men. Describe the cigarette’s blooded eye,

a crimp of smoke. Describe evening’s
lift of heat, the riming of sweat.
If olive trees, describe the olives.

How a fig feels in the hand.
Of the women to be outfitted calculate
their curvatures and needs, if they require

more or fewer pockets for pens.
Determine torso length, musculature,
what weapons may be carried; where

the ammo belt sits, if more men
dress right or left, if concertina wire
bares its teeth every three inches or four.

Study how nature tucks itself into grasses,
study the striping of zebras, the panther’s
darkness, a savannah and the jackal

folded within; how a seal’s belly blends
with the sky when viewed from below.
A ptarmigan feathering into snow.

Describe the mission: peacekeeping
or suppression. Shield or storm.
Consider that a pattern may dazzle

or disrupt. Describe the sight lines:
heat-seeking technology versus scopes.
Scopes versus the sharp-eyed.

When a friend is not always a friend.
When a back might be turned. Consider,
at times, how the jaguar wants to be seen.

© 2020 Karen Skolfield. Today’s poem was taken from the May 2020 issue of Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.