by Elisavietta Ritchie
Coming from somewhere else
at any age, even in utero,
you're never sure
your feet touch the soil.
Your whole life you hover --
or fat dirigible, fearful
someone might poke a hole,
light a match --
You hang in there, up there,
wondering will they finally
grant permission to land
or forever challenge your passport,
check your fingerprints,
discount your money, question
could you survive as a stranger?
Best stay suspended,
forget the keys to the town.
Here, the air is dangerous, cold,
wind currents tricky, but
God, what a view.
-from Awaiting Permission to Land
(winner of the AnamnesisAward)
Cherry Grove Press, copyright 2006
American Life in Poetry: Column 043
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Unlike the calculated expressions of feeling common
to its human masters, there is nothing disingenuous
about the way a dog praises, celebrates, frets or
mourns. In this poem David Baker gives us just
such an endearing mutt.
Up the dog bounds to the window, baying
like a basset his doleful, tearing sounds
from the belly, as if mourning a dead king,
and now he's howling like a beagle -- yips, brays,
gagging growls -- and scratching the sill paintless,
that's how much he's missed you, the two of you,
both of you, mother and daughter, my wife
and child. All week he's curled at my feet,
warming himself and me watching more TV,
or wandered the lonely rooms, my dog shadow,
who like a poodle now hops, amped-up windup
maniac yo-yo with matted curls and snot nose
smearing the panes, having heard another car
like yours taking its grinding turn down
our block, or a school bus, or bird-squawk,
that's how much he's missed you, good dog,
companion dog, dog-of-all-types, most excellent dog
I told you once and for all we should never get.
Reprinted from "The Southeast Review," Vol. 23,
No. 2, 2005, by permission of the author, whose newest book
of poetry is "Midwest Eclogue," W. W. Norton (2005).
Copyright (c) 2005 by David Baker. This weekly column
is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of
Congress, and the Department of English at the University of
Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
American Life in Poetry: Column 043 BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Lola Haskins, who lives in Florida, has written a number of poems about musical terms, entitled "Adagio," "Allegrissimo," "Staccato," and so on. Here is just one of those, presenting the gentleness of pianissimo playing through a series of comparisons.
To Play Pianissimo
Does not mean silence.
The absence of moon in the day sky
Does not mean barely to speak,
the way a child's whisper
makes only warm air
on his mother's right ear.
To play pianissimo
is to carry sweet words
to the old woman in the last dark row
who cannot hear anything else,
and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.
From "Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems," BOA Editions, Rochester, NY. Copyright (c) 2004 by Lola Haskins and reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.