To An Athlete Dying Young

A. E. Housman

THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

Elegy for a Diver

Peter Meinke

Jacknife swandive gainer twist
High off the board you’d pierce the sky
And split the apple of the devil sun
And spit in the sun’s fierce eye.
When you were young you never missed,
Archer-diver who flew too high
So everything later became undone.

Later everything burned to ash
Wings too close to the sun broke down
Jacknife swandive gainer twist
Can’t be done on the ground
And nothing in your diver’s past
Had warned you that a diver drowns
When nothing replaces what is missed.

Everything beautiful falls away
Jacknife swandive gainer twist
Muscles drop and skin turns coarse
Even skin the sun had kissed.
You drank the sun down every day
Until the sun no longer existed
And only the drink had any force.

Only the drink had any force
Archer-diver who flew too high
When you were young you never missed
And spit in the sun’s fierce eye.
Later everything burned to ash:
Everything beautiful falls away
Even skin the sun had kissed
Jacknife swandive gainer and twist

And now I see your bones in dreams
Turning and twisting below our feet
Finger bones bending out like wings
As once again your body sings
Swandiving slowly through the stone
That sparks your skill and shoulder bones
Layer by layer and over and over
You flash through limestone sand and lava
Feet together and backbone arched
Like an arrow aimed at the devil’s heart
The dead are watching your perfect dive
Clicking their fingers as if alive
High off the board and to hell with the chances
As once again your body dances
Anything done well shines forever only polished by death’s dark weather
Diver diver diving still
Now and forever I praise your skill


Edward Hirsch

The last time I saw my high school football coach
He had cancer stenciled into his face
Like pencil marks from the sun, like intricate
Drawings on the chalkboard, small x's and o's
That he copied down in a neat numerical hand
Before practice in the morning. By day's end
The board was a spiderweb of options and counters,
Blasts and sweeps, a constellation of players
Shining under his favorite word, Execution,
Underlined in the upper right-hand corner of things.
He believed in football like a new religion
And had perfect unquestioning faith in the fundamentals
Of blocking and tackling, the idea of warfare
Without suffering or death, the concept of teammates
Moving in harmony like the planets — and yet
Our awkward adolescent bodies were always canceling
The flawless beauty of Saturday afternoons in September,
Falling away from the particular grace of autumn,
The clear weather, the ideal game he imagined.
And so he drove us through punishing drills
On weekday afternoons, and doubled our practice time,
And challenged us to hammer him with forearms,
And devised elaborate, last-second plays — a flea-
Flicker, a triple reverse — to save us from defeat.
Almost always they worked. He despised losing
And loved winning more than his own body, maybe even
More than himself. But the last time I saw him
He looked wobbly and stunned by illness,
And I remembered the game in my senior year
When we met a downstate team who loved hitting
More than we did, who battered us all afternoon
With a vengeance, who destroyed us with timing
And power, with deadly, impersonal authority,
Machine-like fury, perfect execution.

from The Night Parade © Alfred A. Knopf, 1989

A Sestina for Michael Jordan

Jay Spoon

The NBA wasn't the same without Michael.
What was THE GAME
Became just a game.
I missed watching him in his hundred dollar shoes
Do his million dollar dunks
After pulling some of his million dollar moves.

Other people tried the same moves,
But they couldn't make them as smoothly as Michael.
They tried to copy his dunks,
To make it more of a GAME.
Some of them even wore his shoes.
But without him it was always, only, a game.

It got boring just watching a game,
Even if there were a few good moves,
And someone was wearing some really nice shoes.
In their hearts the fans knew that without Michael,
There would never be another great GAME—
Just lay-ups and shots from outside, but no great dunks.

Sure, they all tried to do powerful dunks,
But they never made it more than a game.
The thing that would make it more of a GAME
Again were the magnificent moves
Of the fabulous Michael-—
With or without his hundred dollar shoes.

Some say it was the shoes,
And some say it was the dunks,
But all basketball fans loved to watch Michael.
Coaches don't like coaching a game.
They want steals, dunks, exciting moves—
They want a GAME.

The only way it could ever be a GAME
Again is him, wearing his hundred dollar shoes,
Pulling his million dollar moves,
Then going up for his million dollar dunks.
Without him on the starting five it was an amateur's game.
The playoffs, the steals, the fouls are nothing without Michael.

The plain truth is that before Michael there was no GAME.
It was just a predictable game played in boring shoes.
I'm relieved to have him back; I missed those dunks and moves.

The Double Play

Robert Wallace

In his sea-lit
distance, the pitcher winding
like a clock about to chime comes down with

the ball, hit
sharply, under the artificial
bank of lights, bounds like a vanishing string

over the green
to the shortstop magically
scoops to his right whirling above his invisible

in the dust redirects
its flight to the running poised second baseman

leaping, above the slide, to throw
from mid-air, across the colored tightened interval,

to the leaning-
out first baseman ends the dance
drawing it disappearing into his long brown glove

stretches. What
is too swift for deception
is final, lost, among the loosened figures

jogging off the field
(the pitcher walks), casual
in the space where the poem has happened.

First Love

Carl Linder

Before sixteen
I was fast
enough to fake
my shadow out
and I could read
every crack and ripple
in that patch of asphalt.
I owned
the slanted rim
the dead spot in the backboard.
Always the ball
came back.
Every day I loved
to sharpen
my shooting eye,
for the touch.
Set shot, jump shot,
layup, hook—
after a while
I could feel
the ball hungering
to clear
the lip of the rim,
the two of us
falling through.

The Journey

Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

i live in music

ntozake shange

i live in music
is this where you live? 

i live here in music 

i live on c# street 

my friend lives on b-flat avenue 

do you live here in music 


falls round me like rain on other folks 

saxophones wet my face 

cold as winter in st. louis 

hot like peppers i rub on my lips 

thinkin they waz lilies
i got 15 trumpets where other women got hips 

& a upright bass for both sides of my heart 

i walk round in a piano like somebody 

else be walkin on the earth
i live in music 

live in it 

wash in it 

i cd even smell it 

wear sound on my fingers 

sound falls so fulla music 

ya cd make a river where yr arm is &
hold yrself 

hold yrself in a music

Shange, Ntozake and Romare Bearden. I Live in Music. New York: 
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1994.

The Swingset

Grace Walton

Wood rots,
ropes fray,
metal rusts

memories stay.

It stands there
deserted in the midst
of many times climbed
and swung from.

Sometimes it was a ship
escaping from the storm.
Other times, many times,
it was the convertible a friend and I
drove to McDonald’s.

Now years of playing cease.
It’s just the goal for flashlight tag,
where people sulk after losing
preen after winning.

At times I want to shed
my childhood,
but somehow I can’t cart it away
to the dump, where
swingsets are shredded, where
times past
can’t ever

Deer Print

Benjamin F. Williams

A soft indentation—
two toes—
marks the ground,
a blank reminder
of what has been here before me.
I try to feel amazed,
to marvel at this muddy imprint,
to feel lucky at my chance notice—
but I want to see the deer,
steam streaming from her nostrils
as she stares at me,
thin legs threatening
to give way,
small brown head
trembling in the cold.
I want to see her bound away,
her tail high in the air,
her two-toed hooves
marking the ground.

The Bowl

Carl Johanson

In a second
it leaves my clumsy fingers
and crashes to the floor.
You turn at the sound
to find shards of the little red bowl
scattered across the tile.
I look up from the remains
and watch sadness seep
into your face.
And then I realize:
to me it was the whipped cream bowl,
to you it was a bowl of memories,
a tie to your childhood, your children,
your own mother.
I look down at the pieces
of a life
lying in front of me.
Then I turn
to get
the broom.


Harriet Brown

I found it in the wash, the orange
shell I picked up on the beach
that last time. One of my girls—
the one named after you—

must have found it in my room
and wanted it. Clean calcareous
curve, a palm open to nothing,
reeking of sunshine

and your death. For years
I didn’t know what to do with it.
You would have liked
this story: how a child

slips grief into a careless pocket.
Breaks it to pieces. Lets it go.

What Came to Me

Jane Kenyon

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.


Nora Bradford

I watch Mom cut five slices,
then take the largest and reddest.
When I sink my teeth into solid juice,
the melon squirts its fireworks.
I swallow a seed—
that’s one I won’t spit
into the bowl
beyond the deck railing.
When I finish the delightful redness
I throw the green rind to Hobo,
who waits his turn.
He grabs the crust in his mighty jaws
and runs away
with its sweetness.

Seasons of the School Oak

Eben Court

In fall
the children rest under you,
against your massive trunk,
books in hand,
as you drop golden leaves and acorns
and decorate what lies beneath.

In winter,
a tall skeleton
dressed in white,
you watch car pools and children
come and go,
while snow buries everything
and you wait.

In spring
your leaves fill the air
with green
as you watch the children
in the field play soccer
and everything-including you-
comes back to life.

In summer,
when the kids are gone
and the heat grows,
you enjoy the silence
while it lasts
but miss the company
of the children.

The Tree

Eben Court

In spring
your leaves start to come back
and the forest grows with color.
In summer
your leaves turn a brilliant shade of green
and your branches reach for the sky.
In fall
your leaves turn beautiful
shades of orange and red,
filling the air with color.
And then they begin to fall
slowly downwards,
making the ground
crunch beneath my feet.
In winter
all your leaves are gone.
Just skeletons live in this age.
The seasons -
they are different to a tree,
but all of them are beautiful.

Between Walls

William Carlos Williams

the back wings
of the

hospital where

will grow lie

in which shine
the broken

pieces of a green

Poem (As the cat)

William Carlos Williams

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jam closet
first the right

then the hind
stepped down
into the pit of
the empty


Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used by permission of the author.

What's in my Journal

William Stafford

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can't find them. Someone's terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

from Crossing Unmarked Snow © University of Michigan Press. Reprinted with permission

How Things Work

Gary Soto

Today it's going to cost us twenty dollars
To live. Five for a softball. Four for a book,
A handful of ones for coffee and two sweet rolls,
Bus fare, rosin for your mother's violin.
We're completing our task. The tip I left
For the waitress filters down
Like rain, wetting the new roots of a child
Perhaps, a belligerent cat that won't let go
Of a balled sock until there's chicken to eat.
As far as I can tell, daughter, it works like this:
You buy bread from a grocery, a bag of apples
From a fruit stand, and what coins
Are passed on helps others buy pencils, glue,
Tickets to a movie in which laughter
Is thrown into their faces.
If we buy goldfish, someone tries on a hat.
If we buy crayons, someone walks home with a broom.
A tip. a small purchase here and there,
And things just keep going. I guess.

Mail Call

Adrienne Jaeger

I wait
at the foot of my cot
for the arrival of the mail.
I watch
as the counselor paces,
distributing letters to giddy campers.

four envelopes drop
onto my scratchy blanket.
I sift through the pile
and find three
are from you—
all bright and colorful cards.

I laugh
as I read your version
of Anna’s experience at sailing camp
and for a moment
wish I was back home.

I gaze
at the rainbow wall
pasted with other cards,
all from you.
Then I look at my bunkmates’
barren walls
and I understand how you are different.

Outside tall ferns sway in the wind
and the sun is alone in a flawless blue sky
like the day when you and I said good-bye
and I told you I don’t miss you when I’m at camp.

Well, I do.


Jed Chambers

We would fish,
and we would enjoy it.
That's what my mother said.
I had never fished before,
so I called you.
At the pier we baited our hooks –
slipped barbs into rancid shrimp.
The shining silver pierced one side
and emerged,
glistening, on the other.
Then we cast.
Yours landed far away
near one of the fishing boats,
but mine landed close –
too close perhaps –
to the solitary black cormorant
who clumsily flapped away
and screamed at me in its foreign tongue.
Then came reluctant waiting.
Finally, I felt a sharp tug
and I saw it –
the blue-white streak
cut through the brine
like harnessed lightning.
A mackerel.
The monofilament stretched taut.
Slowly I reeled it in.
As it lay there,
staining the dock crimson,
you killed it.
“Just a fish,” you claimed.
But when it was cooked
for our dinner
I tasted

New Eyes

Adrienne Jaeger

Shuffling through the crowds –
a sea of shorts and tank tops –
hot sun beating down on a packed Madison Avenue,
I tighten my grip on my sister's hand
and push through the mob.
From behind us stalks a young man,
trailing in back of him a cart.
He flips his head
to wipe unkempt hair out of his face.
Grubby, torn clothes
swallow a frail body.
He curses
as he drops the remnants of a sandwich
and, without a flinch, picks it up
and stuffs his mouth. I look away in disgust.
But as he passes us,
I spy books
scattered through his pile of belongings,
each with a tattered binding
or missing cover,
but every page well loved.
I watch him disappear into swarms of people,
embarrassed that with one look,
I knew everything.
I trudge on
through a sea of shorts and tank tops,
hot sun beating down on a packed Madison Avenue,
looking ahead
with new eyes.

Fat Man

Niall Janney

I catch sight of the man
on route to the mountain's summit.
He carries with him a recycled Coke bottle
secured to a small pack.
But the man also hefts his weight
inside a sweat-stained XXXL red tee shirt.
He's what I call a fat man –
a fat man who doesn't exercise,
a fat man who engulfs food,
a fat man who lives only to become fatter and fatter.
He turns at my approach
then drops his eyes
as they meet the expression in mine.
I pass the fat man swiftly, with disgust,
wondering what could drive him
to attempt the summit.
When I glance back with this question in mind,
my eyes drop to the legend on the red tee shirt:
I'm hiking for the National Cancer Foundation.
I caught sight of the man
on route to the mountain's summit.
He carried with him a recycled Coke bottle
secured to a small pack.
He was heading upward.
He was on a mission.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

defining the magic

Charles Bukowski

a good poem is like a cold drink
when you need it,
a good poem is a hot turkey
sandwich when you’re hungry,
a good poem is a gun when
the mob corners you,
a good poem is something that
allows you to walk through the streets of
a good poem can make death melt like
hot butter,
a good poem can frame agony and
hang it on a wall,
a good poem can let your feet touch
a good poem can make a broken mind
a good poem can let you shake hands
with Mozart,
a good poem can let you shoot craps
with the devil
and win,
a good poem can do almost anything,
and most important
a good poem knows when to

The Little Boy

Helen E. Buckley

Once a little boy went to school.
He was quite a little boy
And it was quite a big school.
But the little boy
Found that he could go to his room
By walking in from the door outside,
He was happy
And school did not seem
Quite so big any more.

One morning,
When the little boy had been in school awhile,
The teacher said:
Today we are going to make a picture.
Good, thought the little boy.
He liked to make pictures.
He could make all things;
Lions and tigers,
Chickens and cows,
Trains and boats -
And he took out his box of crayons
And began to draw.

But the teacher said, Wait.
It is not time to begin.
And she waited until everyone looked ready.
Now, said the teacher,
We are going to make flowers.
Good, thought the little boy.
He liked to make flowers,
And he began to make beautiful flowers.
With his pink and orange and blue crayons.
But the teacher said, Wait!
And I will show you how.
And it was red, with a green stem.
There, said the teacher,
Now you may begin.
The little boy looked at the teacher's flower.
Then he looked at his own flower.
He liked his flower better than the teacher's.
But he did not say this.
He just turned his paper over
And he made a flower like the teacher's.
It was red, with a green stem.

On another day,
When the little boy had opened
The door from outside all by himself,
The teacher said:
Today we are going to make something with clay.
Good, thought the little boy.
He liked clay.
He could make all kinds of things with clay:
Snakes and snowmen,
Elephants and mice,
Cars and trucks -
And he began to pull and pinch
His ball of clay.
But the teacher said:
Wait, it is not time to begin.
And she waited until everyone looked ready.
Now, said the teacher,
We are going to make a dish,
He liked to make dishes,
And he began to make some
That were all shapes and sizes.
But the teacher said, Wait
And I will show you how.
And she showed everyone how to make
One deep dish.
There, said the teacher.
Now you may begin.

The little boy looked at the teacher's dish,
Then he looked at his own.
He liked his dishes better than the teacher's.
But he did not say this.
He just rolled his clay into a big ball again
And he made a dish just like the teacher's.
It was a deep dish.

And pretty soon the little boy learned to wait,
And to watch, And to make things just like the teacher.
And pretty soon
He didn't make anything of his own any more.
Then it happened
That the little boy and his family
Moved into another house,
In another city,
And the little boy had to go to another school.
This school was even bigger than the other one,
And there was no door from the outside into his room.
He had to go up some steps,
And walk down a long hall
To get to his room.
And the very first day
He was there,
The teacher said:
Today we are going to make a picture.
Good, thought the little boy,
And he waited for the teacher
To tell him what to do.
But the teacher didn't say anything.
She just walked around the room.

When she came to the little boy she said:
Don't you want to make a picture?
Yes, said the little boy,
What are we going to make?
I don't know until you make it, said the teacher.
How shall I make it? asked the little boy.
Why, anyway you like, said the teacher.
And any colour? asked the little boy.
Any colour, said the teacher.
If everyone made the same picture,
And used the same colours,
How would I know who made what?
And which was which?
I don't know, said the little boy,
And he began to make a red flower with a green stem.

The Unwritten Pages

Megan G.

I know
That somewhere
Are the words that remain invisible
They would love to sing
But they have no voice
They would love to breathe
But they have no air
So they wander
Like music without a staff
And I know
I will find those words
Help them sing and help them breathe
My pen will no longer remain still
My soul no longer

America the Beautiful

Katharine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man's avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Idea: Read "America the Beautiful" to American literature class, and ask students to write about what they think is beautiful about America. Condense their answers into a list of words and phrases, laminate each, and use them throughout the year as students study each unit. Asking students: which of our ideas did the Puritans write about, etc.

Upon Hearing That Among Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Effects

Complete Title: Upon Hearing That Among Marilyn Monroe’s Personal Effects Found After Her Death Was a Signed Photograph From Albert Einstein Inscribed With the Words “With Respect and Love and Thanks”

John Hodgen

Had they come together, beaker and bombshell,
like two asteroids meeting, like some big bang,
had they fallen for each other like twin Niagaras,
or perched like two cheesecakes on the Hollywood sign,
we all would have studied the sweet science of love,
shouted Eureka instead of Oh, God,
bliss would have blossomed above every bus stop,
until every man’s hair stood up straight and unkempt,
and each woman’s dress lifted up in the street.

All things are relative, theoretically,
and the stars simply wait to be named and adored,
but if there exists and alternative universe,
Alamogordo remembered or Paramount dreamed,
where God throws His dice in the crapshoot of love,
where blondes prefer gentlemen, where physics comes easy,
perhaps they are married, a nuclear family,
their children in labcoats and abnormal jeans,
Marilyn knee-deep in emotional postulates,
Albert all smiles, like the MGM lion, midriff bared,
their energies balanced in motion and light, E=MC2.


Carl Sandburg

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other.

My Room

Joe Powning

My room
My haven
My block of peace
In a hectic world

My room
My own personal disaster area
Of piled clothing and blaring music-
A comfortable chaos

My room
My harbor of fantasies
“Gee whiz, Ace, what kinda room is this?”
asked Ace’s detective’s sidekick
“I don’t know,” Ace replied, “but I like it.”

My room
My ongoing rationalization
Joe’s brain: Joe’s room is messy
Joe: What’s new?

My room
My responsibility
The subject of many
“Go clean your’s”

My room
My prison
The subject of many
“Go to your’s”

My room
My cubicle of terror
harborer of nightmares
sinister when dark
shelter of my angst

My room
My haven
My organized chaos
My responsibility
My harbor of fantasy
My prison
My terror
My block of peace
in a hectic world


Tony Hoagland

Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison

Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes
Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,
He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them
Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds
Of the thick satin quilt of America

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,
or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,

And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,
It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills
Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—,

He gasped “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were
Clogging up my heart—

And so I perish happily,
Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—

Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad
Would never speak in rhymed couplets,

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes
And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”
And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

“I was listening to the cries of the past,
When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable
Or what kind of nightmare it might be

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you
And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river

Even while others are drowning underneath you
And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

And yet it seems to be your own hand
Which turns the volume higher?

Tony Hoagland, “America” from What Narcissism Means to Me. Copyright © 2003 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Sims: The Game

Elizabeth Spires

A popular computer game explained by a child

In some ways it's Life Real Life
in some ways Yes in some ways No

You design the people they can be
outgoing nice playful active neat
but you can't make them be everything
if they are neat they will clean up after themselves
(Charisma is when they talk to themselves
in front of a mirror)

Adults never get older & old people can do
anything young people can do
Adults don't have to have jobs they can cheat:
push the rose bud & money appears

Job objects like pizza ovens earn you money
or you can be an extra in a movie a soldier
a doctor an astronaut a human guinea pig

Children get older slowly every day they get a report card
children can live in the house without adults
(a family is anyone who lives in the house with you)

Everyone gets skill points:
for chess painting playing the piano
gardening cooking swimming mechanics
(when you get points a circle above your head
fills up with blue)

& there are goals: not to run out of money not to die
& to buy more stuff for the house
(like a pool table or an Easy Double Sleeper Bed)

Adults can get married but it's hard to get married
You tell them to propose but they can't make the decision
on an empty stomach or they've just eaten
& are too tired

To have a Baby click Yes or No & a baby carriage
rolls up

Everyone has to eat sleep go to the bathroom etc.
if they live alone & don't have friends
they get depressed & begin waving their arms

If you give them Free Will you don't have to
keep track of them
but it's strange what they'll do:
once a player fell asleep under the stairs standing up

& sometimes they go into a bedroom that isn't theirs
& sleep in the wrong bed then you have to tell them:
Wake up! That is not your bed!

If they are mad they stomp on each other or put each other
in wrestling holds but no one gets hurt

There are different ways to die:
you can drown in the pool if you swim laps for 24 hours
(the Disaster Family all drowned in the pool
except the little girl who kept going
to school after they died she was perfect)

& the stove or fireplace or grill
can set the house on fire:
once there was a fire in the kitchen
eight people rushed in
yelling Fire! Fire! & blocked the door
so the firemen couldn't get through
(after that everyone had to study cooking
now there are less accidents)

If you have Free Will you can starve or drown yourself
then you wander around as a ghost
until another player agrees to resurrect you

In some ways it's Life Real Life
in some ways Yes in some ways No

Footsteps to Follow

Kelli Carter

What happened to all the Lone Rangers,
the heroes on white stallions,
the knights in white armor,
who fought for our honor?

Where have all the good guys gone?
Whose footsteps are we to follow now?
Whose shoes are we to fill?

Mine is the voice of this generation---
the voice of a thousand.
Do you hear our unanswered questions?
Or are you so deaf that you cannot hear?

So what happened to you, Lone Ranger?
Each time you don’t answer, a little
part of us dies.

Maybe Dats Youwr Pwoblem Too

by Jim Hall

All my pwoblems
who knows, maybe evwybody's pwoblems
is due to da fact, due to da awful twuth

I know, I know. All da dumb jokes:
No flies on you, ha ha,
and da ones about what do I do wit all
doze extwa legs in bed. Well, dat's funny yeah.
But you twy being
SPIDERMAN for a month or two. Go ahead.

You get doze cwazy calls fwom da
Gubbener askin you to twap some booglar who's
only twying to wip off color T.V. sets.
Now, what do I cawre about T.V. sets?
But I pull on da suit, da stinkin suit,
wit da sucker cups on da fingers,
and get my wopes and wittle bundle of
equipment and den I go flying like cwazy
acwoss da town fwom woof top to woof top.

Till der he is, some poor dumb color T.V. slob
and I fall on him and we westle a widdle
until I get him all woped. So big deal.

You tink when you SPIDERMAN
der's sometin big going to happen to you.
Well, I tell you what. It don't happen dat way.
Nuttin happens. Cubbener calls, I go.
Bwing him to powice. Gubbener calls again,
like dat over and over.

I tink I twy sometin diffunt. I tink I twy
sometin excitin like wacing cawrs. Sometin to make
my heart beat at a difwent wate.
But den you just can't quit being sometin like
SPIDERMAN. You SPIDERMAN for life. Fowever. I can't even
buin my suit. It won't buin. It's fwame wesistant.
So maybe dat's youwr pwoblem too, who knows.
So maybe dat's da whole pwoblem wif evwytin.
Nobody can buin der suits, day all fwame wesistent.
Who knows?

You Can't Write a Poem about McDonald's

Ronald Wallace

Noon. Hunger is the only thing
singing in my belly.
I walk through the blossoming cherry trees
on the library mall,
past the young couples coupling,
by the crazy fanatic
screaming doom and salvation
at a sensation-hungry crowd,
to the Lake Street McDonald's.
It is crowded, the lines long and sluggish.
I wait in the greasy air.
All around me people are eating –
the sizzle of conversation,
the salty odor of sweat,
the warm flesh pressing out of
hip huggers and halter tops.
When I finally reach the cash register,
the counter girl is crisp as a pickle,
her fingers thin as french fries,
her face brown as a bun.
Suddenly I understand cannibalism.
As I reach for her,
she breaks into pieces
wrapped neat and packaged for take-out.
I'm thinking, how amazing it is
to live in this country, how easy
it is to be filled.
We leave together, her warm aroma
close at my side.
I walk back through the cherry trees
blossoming up into pies,
the young couple frying in
the hot, oily sun,
the crowd eating up the fanatic,
singing, my ear, my eye, my tongue
fat with the wonder
of this hungry world.

I Can't Forget You

Len Roberts

I Can’t Forget You.
spray-painted high on the overpass,
each letter a good foot long,
and I try to picture the writer
        hanging from a rope
between midnight and dawn
the weight of his love swaying,
        making a trembling
N and G, his mind at work
        with the apostrophe—
        the grammar of loss—
and his resistance to hyperbole,
        no exclamation point
        but a period at the end
that shows a heart not given
        to exaggeration,
a heart that’s direct with a no-
        fooling around approach,
and I wonder if he tested the rope
before tying it to the only tree I can see
        that would bear his weight,
or if he didn’t care about the free-
        fall of thirty or more feet
as he locked his wrist to form such
        straight T’s,
and still managed, dangling, to flex
        for the C and G,
knowing as he did, I’m sure,
the lover would ride this way each day
until she found a way around,
a winding back road with trees
        and roadside
tiger lilies, maybe a stream, a
        white house, white fence,
        a dog in the yard
from this black-letter, open-book
        in-your-face missing
that the rain or Turnpike road
will soon wash off.