A teacher asked Paul what he would remember from third grade, and he sat a long time before writing “this year sumbody tutched me on the sholder” and turned his paper in. Later she showed it to me as an example of her wasted life. The words he wrote were large as houses in a landscape. He wanted to go inside them and live, he could fill in the windows of “o” and “d” and be safe while outside birds building nests in drainpipes knew nothing of the coming rain.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, “Rain,” in Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry
If my wife were to have an affair,
I would walk to my toolbox in the garage,
Take from it my 12" flathead screwdriver
And my hickory-handle hammer,
The one that helped me build three redwood fences,
And I would hammer out the pins
In all the door hinges in the house,
And I would pull off all the doors
And I would stack them in the backyard.
And I would empty all the sheets from the linen closet,
And especially the flannels we have slept between for
And I would empty all the towels, too,
The big heavy white towels she bought on Saturdays at
And the red bath towels we got for our wedding,
And which we have never used;
And I would unroll the aluminum foil from its box,
And carry all the pots and pans from the cupboards to the
And lay this one long sheet of aluminum foil over all our
pots and pans;
And I would dump all the silverware from the drawer
Onto the driveway; and I would push my motorcycle over
And let all its gas leak out,
And I would leave my Jeep running at the curb
Until its tank was empty or its motor blew up,
And I would turn the TV up full-blast and open all the
And I would turn the stereo up full-blast,
With Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on it,
Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” really blasting;
And I would strip our bed;
And I would lie on our stripped bed;
And I would see our maple budding out the window.
I would see our maple budding out our window,
The hummingbird feeder hanging from its lowest bough.
And my cat would jump up to see what was the matter
And I would tell her. Of course, I would tell her.
From her, I hold nothing back.
Smoking by Elton Glaser, from Poetry 180 (Billy Collins)
I like the cool and heft of it, dull metal on the palm, And the click, the hiss, the spark fuming into flame, Boldface of fire, the rage and sway of it, raw blue at the base And a slope of gold, a touch to the packed tobacco, the tip Turned red as a warning light, blown brighter by the breath, The pull and the pump of it, and the paper’s white Smoothed now to ash as the smoke draws back, drawn down To the black crust of lungs, tar and poisons in the pink, And the blood sorting it out, veins tight and the heart slow, The push and wheeze of it, a sweep of plumes in the air Like a shako of horses dragging a hearse through the late centennium, London, at the end of December, in the dark and fog.