The hydrangeas made a nest for themselves here
Blush, cotton skin, raindrop chin
Raccoons move in their gaze, like fog
And you’re missing home
The moon’s fist is rooting for you too

The ash from the fire sits on bare toes
You’re crying because it’s cold?
You’re crying because the light went out?

The cricket hymns follow you into bed but you can’t see them
Not even the Stars in Seattle speak
The candle wax is falling onto the windowsill and you remember when dad picked it out for you
The bull’s head sits on your shoulders when your parents call, just checking in
You’re grinning until the teeth grind, caked in tobacco dust

4 years and the Cascades still mock you with their ridges jabbed into your neck
The cocktails last night were smooth enough to pull you under water
But the rain drowns you out anyway

Sometimes your own hair chokes at your breath until you fall into a new dream
A new town
And you wake up from a nightmare
You’re still here

And the rain still falls down trees that are dying in your lawn
And getting a degree and a job and a boy-friend, maybe
Feels like next month
Feels like white space
Like fresh white snow

The hydrangeas are always rooted, always blushing
And you don’t even care they’re home too




The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift – not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of
boredom would be enough to make us even.

by: Billy Collins

The Best Cigarette

There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

by: Billy Collins


This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.
This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes—
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward’s child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle—
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avocados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall—
too much to name, too much to think about.
And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electronic line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair,
and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.
by: Billy Collins


by: Quinn Rogers

I like nature, it’s been good to me.
From the lowest moss, to the tallest tree.

I hope to see its continued health,
Give us beauty and leafy wealth.

I’ve never been bit by a jungle vine,
And I haven’t been abused by a forest pine.

In my opinion a briar,
Doesn’t purposely snare.

Violets aren’t known,
For their vicious glare.

Cool green grass doesn’t burn my feet,
Nothing’s intimidating about rolling fields of wheat.

No crime has been committed,
By a mountain brook.

Walk in its frosty waters,
And take a closer look.

We continue to destroy,
Our massive eco-system.

In so many harmful ways,
I can’t begin to list them.

Let’s make a helpful change,
In destructful everday ways.

Notice how nature’s grateful,
And invariably repays.

Is the air we breathe,
And the water we consume.

Not meager enough a payment,
To merely give them room?

An Old Poet’s Suicide Note

Walking in the dark
I grew blind
Wading across silence
I turned deaf
Teachers who speak ceaselessly about light,
how far above is it?
Prophets who taught me about revolution,
how remote is it?
My legs have grown weary
My heart beats are slow
You still tell lies
Don’t lie to children, said the poet
who just died of the world.
I searched in all the books,
for a word of truth
I dug every drought
for a drop of tear
I can no more speak of earth’s beauty
sitting on a sinking land.
Cannot speak of trees sitting inside a storm
Cannot speak of beginnings inside a deluge
I had a country when I was born
Now I am a refugee
I was born with a single chain;
several chains fetter me now.
I raised my hands to scream against injustice
I said ‘don’t’ to the vile hunter.
My life is collection of vain deeds.
This is the first poem I write
without corrections and revisions
This is the first song of the night
I sing without faltering.
The spring of my dreams has gone dry
I draw the curtains on this shadow play,
quickly, easily, like switching off a TV set.
Farewell. Call me when the world changes.
I shall come back if the hungry worms
and the obstructing angels permit me.

K. Satchidanandan
A poet, essayist and literary critic writing in Malayalam. He lives in Delhi and his latest collection of poetry is The Missing Rib. He has translated this poem himself.

(source:  curated by Meena Kandasamy for Mint Lounge Aug 12th 2017)


Source: An Old Poet’s Suicide Note

On Monsieur’s Departure: Queen Elizabeth I

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.