Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Category: Favorite Poem of the Day

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Praise Song for the Donkey” by Aracelis Girmay

I figure this is appropriate given what’s going on.

for Lama & Haya & the donkey, killed by an Israeli missile in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza

“It was not possible to identify which parts belonged to the donkey & the girls”
     –Witness, Gaza, Palestine, 2009

Praise the Mohawk roof
of the donkey’s good & gray head, praise
its dangerous mane hollering out. Beneath
her soft & mournful gray, still beneath
the skull, where it is dusk, praise
the rooms of the donkey’s eye & brain,
its pulley & clang, this sound
of hooves & the girls still saying words.
Praise the girls still saying words,
praise the girls, their hands, the hooves
of their hearts hoofing against their opened chests
opened on the open road plainly, praise
the fat tongue’s memory of grass or hay,
the hundred nights of animal sleep
flung far from bodies, the sturdy houses of bones, all over
the decimated road where every thing is flying, praise
the deep, dark machine of the donkey’s eye,
the girl’s eye, like a movie-house crumbling
in a field outside of town—,
praise the houses & the rocks it held once, the sky
before & after the missile, praise the dark
& donkey soul crossing over, every one,
every hill & girl it ever saw, crossing over
in the red suitcase of its blood, into the earth,
praise the donkey earth, earth of girls,
earth of funerals & girls, praise the small,
black luggage of the donkey’s eye
in a field, flung far,
filling the ants & birds
with what
it saw.


Favorite Poem of the Day – “The Play of Light and Shadow” by D. Nurkse

This poem is by my first teacher and adviser during my undergrad studies at Sarah Lawrence College. Technically he’s my ‘Don’; I’ll leave it to all of you to discern what that means. I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to have a personal relationship with this guy because besides being a brilliant, universally wonderful (or to use a word I’ve only ever heard him use, numinous) person, he’s also become one of my favorite poets in the world.

The Play of Light and Shadow

We want to give ourselves away utterly
but afterwards we resent it, it is the same
with the sparrows, their eyes burn so coldly
under the dusty pines, their small chests swell
as they dispute a crumb, or the empty place
where a seed was once: this is our law too,
to peck and peck at the Self, to take turns
being I, to die in a fierce sidelong glance,
then to hold the entire forest in one tilt
of a tufted head, to take flight suddenly
and fuck in midair, tumbling upward.

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Scary, No Scary” by Zachary Schomburg

Time for my favorite poem of the day to be a little more modern. Here’s a great example of something that a lot of modern poetry does well — using ‘conceptual distance’ to invoke deep emotion.

This poem isn’t quite telling a story, but it is. Notice it’s in the second person. The poem creates a fictional reality in which the main character is you, and the emotion is the decay of the idea of ‘home’. It is very real and yet, not real at all.

Also, what do you think of Schomburg’s use of linebreaks? It helps create that sense of decay I think.


One night, when
you return to your childhood
home after

a lifetime away,
you’ll find it
abandoned. Its

paint will be
completely weathered.

It will have
a significant westward lean.

There will be
a hole in its roof
that bats fly
out of.

The old man
hunched over
at the front door
will be prepared
to give you a tour,
but first he’ll ask
Scary, or no scary?

You should say
No scary.

(*Other news* You may have noticed that the domain of this blog has changed! I’ve always wanted to update the lengthy and hard to remember URL which came from my mishearing of the lyrics of The Beatles’ “Two of Us”. Enjoy this new, easier to type and remember URL, It has been the title of the blog for quite awhile and some of you will recognize it from a recently posted Czeslaw Milosz poem. It is also a real domain name without the ‘’ which is exciting! Don’t worry, if you’re really attached to the old URL, it’ll still forward you here.)

Favorite Poem of the Day – “Esse” by Czeslaw Milosz

I realized just now that I’ve never posted this poem, the last line of which was the original tagline for this blog. It is my favorite poem of all time.

I found this in Czeslaw Milosz’s (Cheh-shwah Mee-lohsh is my impression of how to pronounce it) Nobel Prize portfolio. Milosz is a polish poet who is particularly fond of attempting to describe the indescribable nature of things. He is astonishingly successful at this hilariously ironic enterprise, and captures absolute beauty as he does it. I love him because he has come closer to describing anything than anyone I’ve ever read.

As a lure into more of his work I’m going to quote the last couple lines of his poem “Earth Again” which I read in his book “Unattainable Earth”. These are the lines that first made Milosz one of my favorite writers of all time.

“…for a short moment there is no death
And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn
Thrown into an abyss.”

Also search youtube for videos of him speaking/reading if you want an example of a great poet voice.

If you’re interested in other Polish poets check out Zbigniew Herbert.


I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of métro stations flew by; I didn’t notice them. What can be done, if our sight lacks absolute power to devour objects ecstatically, in an instant, leaving nothing more than the void of an ideal form, a sign like a hieroglyph simplified from the drawing of an animal or bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin – but why isn’t the power of sight absolute? – and in a whiteness tinged with pink two sculpted holes, containing a dark, lustrous lava. To absorb that face but to have it simultaneously against the background of all spring boughs, walls, waves, in its weeping, its laughter, moving it back fifteen years, or ahead thirty. To have. It is not even a desire. Like a butterfly, a fish, the stem of a plant, only more mysterious. And so it befell me that after so many attempts at naming the world, I am able only to repeat, harping on one string, the highest, the unique avowal beyond which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousands-strong marches, leap, rend your clothing, repeating only: is!

She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.

Favorite Poem of the Day – ‘Fedoras’ by Max Garland

I’ve been reading Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography. Though I realize this recalls exactly not his time period, every era of the past melds into just that, the past, to those of us who really need to read a few history books. Anyway, my poetry was played on the radio in Wisconsin along with Max Garland, the poet laureate of Wisconsin, reading some of his own work. His writing is incredible. I’ll post that recording soon.

This must be one of the best radio stations in the country:


They come out of the 1940’s
to be your parents. Their faces
swim and settle into clarity.
The crook of an arm. The fount
of a breast. They come from
the time before your life,
before the things that fill
your life. Before water
sprang from the faucet. Before
television loomed in the corner
and even the house cats gathered
to watch. They come from after
the war, when all the movies
were jubilant, even the sad ones
bloodless. It’s as if you
were handed down to them,
as if you were a pearl
they would polish into life.
From times of great difficulty
they come, though speaking
with a deep nostalgia,
lowering the language to you
like a ladder, rung by rung.
Before you existed, they are,
which is like something
out of the Bible. Out of
their own childhoods they come
to be stricken with this,
to be stricken with time,
of which you are the immediate
symptom. Bringing their jewelry
and shaving brushes, wearing
their fedoras and hairdos,
they come to be your parents.
You have your father’s eyes
someone says. But no, you
have your mother’s face and eyes
is the more common opinion.
They send you wobbling out
like a top in front of them.
The wind could almost bowl
you over. You turn back
and they are dressed
like characters in a movie
or a dream. You turn back
and this is love. Your own name
sinks in and separates you.