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Quotes tagged “Poetry”
is a back road, meadowlands punctuated
by gravel quarry and lumberyard,
there are unexpected travelers
some nights on our way home from work.
Once, on the lawn of the Tool
and Die Company, a swan;
the word doesn’t convey the shock
of the thing, white architecture
rippling like a pond’s rain-pocked skin,
beak lifting to hiss at my approach.
Magisterial, set down in elegant authority,
he let us know exactly how close we might come.
After a week of long rains
that filled the marsh until it poured
across the road to make in low woods
a new heaven for toads,
a snapping turtle lumbered down the center
of the asphalt like an ambulatory helmet.
His long tail dragged, blunt head jutting out
of the lapidary prehistoric sleep of shell.
We’d have lifted him from the road
but thought he might bend his long neck back
to snap. I tried herding him; he rushed,
though we didn’t think those blocky legs
could hurry— then ambled back
to the center of the road, a target
for kids who’d delight in the crush
of something slow with the look
of primeval invulnerability. He turned
the blunt spear point of his jaws,
puffing his undermouth like a bullfrog,
and snapped at your shoe,
vising a beakful of— thank God—
leather. You had to shake him loose. We left him
to his own devices, talked on the way home
of what must lead him to new marsh
or old home ground. The next day you saw,
one town over, remains of shell
in front of the little liquor store. I argued
it was too far from where we’d seen him,
too small to be his… though who could tell
what the day’s heat might have taken
from his body. For days he became a stain,
a blotch that could have been merely
oil. I did not want to believe that
was what we saw alive in the firm center
of his authority and right
to walk the center of the road,
head up like a missionary moving certainly
into the country of his hopes.
In the movies in this small town
I stopped for popcorn while you went ahead
to claim seats. When I entered the cool dark
I saw straight couples everywhere,
no single silhouette who might be you.
I walked those two aisles too small
to lose anyone and thought of a book
I read in seventh grade, "Stranger Than Science,"
in which a man simply walked away,
at a picnic, and was,
in the act of striding forward
to examine a flower, gone.
By the time the previews ended
I was nearly in tears— then realized
the head of one-half the couple in the first row
was only your leather jacket propped in the seat
that would be mine. I don’t think I remember
anything of the first half of the movie.
I don’t know what happened to the swan. I read
every week of some man’s lover showing
the first symptoms, the night sweat
or casual flu, and then the wasting begins
and the disappearance a day at a time.
I don’t know what happened to the swan;
I don’t know if the stain on the street
was our turtle or some other. I don’t know
where these things we meet and know briefly,
as well as we can or they will let us,
go. I only know that I do not want you
—you with your white and muscular wings
that rise and ripple beneath or above me,
your magnificent neck, eyes the deep mottled autumnal colors
of polished tortoise— I do not want you ever to die.”
Am I some kind of ghost? A few roses
blown open. People kept trooping back
and forth in downpour to view
the thorny stalks. I saw the photos.
Am I shameful? Even from far away
you can tell someone’s age by how her body
moves. What bird by the steadiness
of its wings. Some trees are simply
more picturesque. Some days
I’m a regret machine. Why
are children always running, is there
so very much to get to? You terrify
the moments. You waste them like this.
And behind walls doors and screens,
everyone you’ve ever lost
is repeating marriage vows.”
when she reached menopause
the swamp cleared from her mind
the sun shone brightly
for the first time since girlhood
she could think clearly
things were outlined as if in lights
a dog was a dog and a man
was only a man
Imprisoned in the arms
of Eros you relax you blur
you have no will of your own
can make you tingle with delight
music art nature kisses touch
the wetness the pulsing
every glance a sort
of soft bullet she said
How true and what a fool
I made of myself
all those years
well we all did, you and I
honey we were like those lab mice
that will step on the pedal
that gives them those thrills
not eating not stopping
until they die
Now when I look at my body
under the spell of gravity
I have to laugh
Oh my god the way we all lined up
like a fleet of taxis at a red light
just waiting and racing our motors
what a joke sex is, though without it
no avenue to paradise
no human glue”
At the Detroit Metro Airport
with the turtle-hours to spare
between now & my flight, there is
such a thing as the kindness
of the conveyor belt who lends me
its slow, strange mollusk foot
as I stand quiet, exhausted, having been
alone in my bed for days now, sleeping
in hotels, having spent months, now,
without seeing the faces of my family, somehow
its slow & quiet carrying of the load
reminds me of the kindness of donkeys
& this kindness returns me to myself.
It reminds me of the kindness of other things I love
like the kindness of sisters who send mail,
wherever you are, &, speaking of mail, there is
the special kindness of the mail lady
who says, 'Hi, baby' to everyone, at first
I thought it was just me, but now I know
she says 'Hi, baby' to everyone. That is kindness.
Too, there is the kindness of windows, & of dogs.
& then there was that extraordinary Sunday
back at the house, I heard a woman screaming
about how she was lonely & so lonely
she didn’t know what she’d do, maybe kill
herself, she said, over & over like a parrot
in a cage, a parrot whose human parent
only taught it that one sentence. I looked out
the window & saw her from behind, the way she flung
her arms like she was desperate & being killed
or eaten by an invisible predator, like a tiger or a lion, in the chest.
& her voice seemed fogged out with methadone, I don’t know,
something, & I walked away from the window
& sat, angry with her for screaming, & sad,
& not long after, I heard her saying,
What’d you say? What’d you say to me?
& a man’s voice, low, I could not tell if it was kind.
& she said, I’ll kill myself, I’m so lonely.
& did I tell you, yet, that it was Mother’s Day?
Flowers & mothers, flowers & mothers all day long.
& the woman saying, I’m so lonely. I could kill myself.
& then quiet. & the man’s voice saying, It’s okay.
It’s okay. I love you, it’s okay.
& this made me get up, put my face, again, to the window
to see my landlord’s nephew outside, just hugging her so, as if
it were his mother, I mean, as if he belonged to her,
& then, again, quiet, I left the window but sat
in the silence of the house, hidden by shutters, & was amazed.
When the front door of the brownstone opened up
& let the tall nephew in with his sad & cougar eyes,
handsome & tall in his Carolina-Brooklyn swagger, I heard
him start to climb the stairs above me, & my own hand
opened up my own front door,
& though it was none of my business
I asked him, Do you know that women out there?
& do you know what happened next?
He said, No. The nephew said no, he didn’t know
the woman out there. & he told me Happy Mother’s Day
as he climbed the rest of the stairs. & I can’t stop seeing them
hugging on the street, under trees, it was spring, but cold,
& sometimes in the memory his head is touching hers
& sometimes in the memory his eyes are closed,
& sometimes she is holding him
& singing to him I love you. It’s okay.
I mean to tell you that everywhere I go
I hear us singing to each other. This way. I mean to tell you
that I have witnessed such great kindness as this,
in this, my true life, you must believe me.
I mean, on a Sunday, when nobody was supposed to be
watching. Nobody at all. I saw this happen, the two
of them hugging, when nobody was supposed to be
watching, but not a secret either, public
as the street, not for glory & not for a joke,
the landlord’s nephew ready to stand there for the woman
like a brother or a sister or a husband or son,
or none of these at all, but a stranger,
a stranger, who like her, is an earthling.
Perhaps this thing I am calling kindness
is more simple than kindness, rather, recognition
of the neighbor & the blue, shared earth
& the common circumstance of being here:
what remains living of the last
two million, impossible years…”
and a brace for all my youngest years,
my parents scrambled to take me
to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,
and move more in a body unclouded
by pain. My mom would tell me to sing
songs to her the whole forty-five minute
drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-
five minutes back from physical therapy.
She’d say that even my voice sounded unfettered
by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang,
because I thought she liked it. I never
asked her what she gave up to drive me,
or how her day was before this chore. Today,
at her age, I was driving myself home from yet
another spine appointment, singing along
to some maudlin but solid song on the radio,
and I saw a mom take her raincoat off
and give it to her young daughter when
a storm took over the afternoon. My god,
I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her
raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel
that I never got wet.”
to a beautiful view—
I don’t like it.
I don’t like the way
you make me go
all this deferral
up to a future
only you’ve seen
the ascent always leveraged
against an alien payoff
When we get there
I’ll be dead
tired too tired to view
the view the way
I wanted. I wanted
the way to be beautiful
as a stroll in the hanging
gardens of Babylon
or the wisteria-laden
lanes of the rose garden
in the Bois du Boulogne
as beautiful as a jammed
Sixth Avenue crosswalk
in midtown. I wanted
to be going nowhere
nowhere we know
not to have to breathe
so hard into a future
someone else promised.
reputable studies show
makes for a happy
person & nation
I just want
& want now
I don’t want
to look back
& say ah
that was so
if it was
I don’t want
to keep my head down
for miles alert
for insurgent roots
a falling branch
my legs punctured
by stinging flies
who harry the way
only to be able to say
at some notional
top however beautiful
—& see, no insects here
& why not lunch—
it was just
the glorious sun
and twelve islands
inlaid in a lake
& the distant silent
Somehow it was a vision
of all as dust.
If I go
I want every age
to be a stage
one can look around
and say how interesting
& yes a cup of coffee
would be nice.
I’m not going anywhere
fast but where
we’re all going”
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.
Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if The Star Market
had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them: sour milk, bad meat:
looking for cereal and spring water.
Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept
out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.
If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, I will be healed.
Could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”
five races at war outside time, trapped
in one spindly high-toned body, knobby elbows and knees
the rigorously loving teachings of mom and dad take
root despite media engineering and peer pressures.
the snippy cuttings, mouthy snipings, and cheeky wit
that will soon attend his adolescent defenses have yet
to materialize. right now he knows not to prevaricate
and so, that fall morning when i call him
to me for an ancestral chat, to take him into my lap
don’t be afraid, i say. he takes a few eager skips
that turn into squirms when i grab him and hold him tight
situated in my softness, he relaxes some
but stares at my hands in consternation
this is what happens, i think, when the eyes go against the heart
You’re all mixed up, aren’t you?
Your mother belongs to me. What’s my name?
What do you call me?
You don’t want to like me,
Because I’m brown.
Is it because I’m brown?
Well, that’s okay. I’m going
to be brown forever. Is it
okay if I like you?
then I hug him and let go, wondering
if that’s enough to set him free.”
lifting from the engine bay, dark and gnarled
as roots dripping river mud,
no one to see how his palms — slabs of callus
from scouring the long throats of chimneys,
hauling mortar and brick — move
in the fabricated light. Thumb-knuckle
thick and white as a grub where the box-
cutter bit. Split nail grown back
scalloped and crooked. The stitch-
puckered skin. And when they fold into and out
of themselves by the steaming faucet,
when they strip clean, the tap water
running black, then copper, then clear
into the grease-clotted drain
there’s no one to witness the slap
of a wet rag tossed in the break-
room sink or the champ of gravel
in the empty lot. How the stars dim
as morning comes on. How a semi downshifts
on the overpass and the shop windows rattle
as it goes.”
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.”
And not goodbye, unplugged
The TV when it rained. They hid
Money in mattresses
So to sleep on decisions.
Some of their children
Were not their children. Some
Of their parents had no birthdates.
They could sweat a cold out
Of you. They’d wake without
An alarm telling them to.
Even the short ones reached
Certain shelves. Even the skinny
Cooked animals too quick
To get caught. And I don’t care
How ugly one of them arrived,
That one got married
To somebody fine. They fed
Families with change and wiped
Their kitchens clean.
Then another century came.
People like me forgot their names.”
will carve new tributaries,
tear through homes,
flood the roots of trees.
The therapist tells you your mind
is swollen with doom
that carries you in its white rush,
torrents ripping through
rock and root.
I don’t know in what direction love pulls me.
But I do know the feeling of the muscle in your chest flailing
for fear of drowning.
At Minnehaha, a young Southeast Asian couple asked me
to take their picture.
Cambodian, or Lao, or Thai, or Viet.
He was heavily tattooed and looked like the dudes
who would have whooped my ass just for breathing,
back in the day.
She had dyed hair,
looked like the girls who dismissed me
as a pasty, boring little sellout back then.
They’re the most gorgeous couple in the park.
If it sounds like I’m making assumptions about them and me,
and it’s not okay
just because I’m Asian too.
They like the picture I take for them.
The creek and the falls are swollen from the rains.
The same that have deluged basements,
dips in the road,
drowned park benches too close to the lake shore.
Each raindrop doesn’t care
if it’s the one to soak in
or the one that stays above it all to flood.
They just throw themselves on top of each other
until they become bigger than who they were
when they were apart.”
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.
As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.
Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping ‘tween floorboards,
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips.
Engines grinding, rotating, smokin’, gotta pull back some.
Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips.
Gotta love us girls, just struttin’ down Manhattan streets
killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips.
Crying ’bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.”
Grant me porch ledge, mantel.
Scented candles, bed. Grant me
four walls, a 5-foot fridge & a hall.
& maybe four more walls. Yes.
Four more walls. & a desk. &
a decent laptop, plus pleather
rolling chair. So that I might sit
& write you a poem, Lord.
A psalm praising all you’ve given:
Air I sing with. Cricket’s falsetto.
Buzzing bees & nectar—
how chrysanthemum feels
on the tongue
is what you are to me.
You see what I am doing here.
You see, I am being so sincere,
Sire. Which is sad. Still, grant me
a few free hours each day. Grant me
a Moleskine pad & a ballpoint pen
with some mass. Grant me your gift
of this voice. Pages & pages
of this voice, in a good book
from a loving press. & grant me
a great love, too. Grant a way
to provide for my love. Like,
a tenure-track job
at a small college in the Midwest.
The kind with poems
& papers to read. With hoodies
running in & out of my office.
Deadline, paychecks, &
an OK 401(k). Grant me
everything, Lord. Not today.
But before 28. Be Bulldozer.
Genie. Let every prayer avalanche
me into dust, blank matter. Debris.
Make me worthy. O Lord, make me me.”
some Greek myth. This guy is punished for—punished—yes—
for something, and has to roll a rock up a hill every day
and every day it rolls—a rock, yes—
and every day it rolls back down.
Something about the absurdity of life.
Camus says—Camooo—says it’s
about the condition of man and that
it’s meaningless and we have to just keep
doing it and—the rock, yes, rolling the rock—and that
gives our life meaning. Yeah. Well
if that don’t drive you to God—”
The smell wafted from the kitchen into the living room,
through the yellow curtains and into the sunlight.
Bread warmed in the oven,
and in my oven mitt, I managed to forget
that I’d ever punched someone in the face.
It seemed so long ago, I might not even have done it.
I went out into the yard before dark
and saw last year’s rake on the lawn.
It was a cheap metal one
that tore up the old grass.
I did that for a while.
When I went back in the house,
the roast was burned black
and the bread was hard.
I sat on the couch and watched it get dark.
I was getting hungry, but I felt afraid
of seeing the refrigerator light go on.
Then I would have to turn on other lights,
and then what would I do?
I heard a car pass once in a while.
I thought about a time on vacation
when I bought a newspaper and tomatoes
from a supermarket I’d never heard of.
I remembered an old bathing suit I had,
but I couldn’t think of what happened to it.
I could move away.
I could get in the car right now
and drive all night,
as soon as I had a sandwich.
Turkey, tomato, mayo,
Swiss, lettuce. It was exciting.
I still had my shoes on. I drove to a truck stop.
It was bright inside and I loved the world.
I bought a sandwich and ate it from my lap while I drove.
When I pulled up to my house it was quiet.”
foretells how many pockmarks will appear on your lover’s face
Sleeping on your back will flatten your head’s shape
but sleep on your stomach and you’ll induce nightmares
Eating the fat inside the crab sharpens the mind
so too the roe extracted from the steamed fish
Never let your feet touch cold water from the bathtub or
the sea on days when you’re menstruating
Pinch the nose before age six when the cartilage is pliable
so the nasal bridge will grow narrow and high
Drift asleep with your hair wet
and you’ll suffer from decades of migraines
You’ll wreck your eyesight poring over pages in low light
but looking at all things green from a distance can coax it back”
he chooses a sizable canvas. He broods on it.
He wastes his time haggling about his commission
with a mean Carmelite monk from the Abruzzi,
prior, or canon, or whatnot. It is winter now.
His finger joints start cracking like the brushwood
in the fireplace. With a groan he will ground
the canvas, let it dry, ground it once more,
will scrawl his figures, impatiently, ghostlike,
on small cartoons, and set them off with white lead.
He temporizes and idles away a few weeks,
rubbing down his colors. But at long last—
Ash Wednesday has gone by, and Candlemas—
early one morning he dips his brush in burnt umber
and starts painting. This will be a gloomy picture.
How do you go about painting Doom? The conflagrations,
the vanishing islands, the lightning, the walls
and towers and pinnacles crumbling ever so slowly:
nice points of technique, problems of composition.
Destroying the world is a difficult exercise.
Hardest to paint are the sounds—for example
the temple veil being rent asunder, the beasts
roaring, and the thunderclaps. Everything, you see,
is to be rent asunder and torn to pieces,
except the canvas. And there can be no doubt
about the appointed time: by All Souls’ Day
the frantic sea in the background must be coated
over and over again with a thousand layers
of transparency, with foamy green lights,
pierced by mastheads, by ships reeling, plunging down,
by wrecks, while outside, in mid-July,
not a dog will stir on the dust-covered square.
The women have left, the servants, the disciples.
In the forlorn town only the Master remains.
He looks tired. Who would have thought that he, of all people,
would look dead tired? Ochre—everything seems ochre now,
shadowless, standing still, transfixed in a kind
of evil eternity, except the picture. It grows
and darkens slowly, absorbing shadows,
steel-blue; livid, dull violet, caput mortuum,
absorbing demons and horsemen and massacres,
until Doom is happily consummated and the artist,
for a brief moment, is, like a child, unmindfully merry,
as if his life has been spared, and in his relief
on this very night he asks his friends to a feast
and treats them to truffles, to grouse and old wine,
with the season’s first rainstorm pounding away at the shutters.”
the dog’s leash taut in your hand,
how can you so blind & quickly
pass us on your morning walks?
Haven’t you yet learned
there are happenings on planes
you do not see?
The dog knows we are here & have
crucial news. When he stops
& presses his muzzle to the air,
can’t you see him sniffing at our feet?”
between wax-paper sheets.
We melted crayons into candles
and froze Kool-Aid into popsicles.
We poked cloves into oranges. We grew roots
on sweet potatoes tooth-picked in water.
We taped our broken glasses together
and shut up. We made shoe-box
dioramas with Play-Doh and modeling clay.
We cut snowflakes from folded paper
and hung them with kite string.
We made newspaper kites
and imagined they could fly.
We shaped tin foil into fake coins
for our church envelopes.
We covered love bites with Kool-Aid.
We filled liquor bottles with holy water.
We hid our stash in beanbag chairs.
We drove to Ohio for drugs
and rolled back our father’s odometer.
We mounted our girlfriends
on basement pool tables, clacking balls together
for ears upstairs.
We drew lies with chalk
and the truth with tar.
We lit our hair on fire
to cover the smell.
About The Authors
This page was created by our editorial team. Each page is manually curated, researched, collected, and issued by our staff writers. Quotes contained on this page have been double checked for their citations, their accuracy and the impact it will have on our readers.
Kelly Peacock is an accomplished poet and social media expert based in Brooklyn, New York. Kelly has a Bachelor's degree in creative writing from Farieligh Dickinson University and has contributed to many literary and cultural publications. Kelly assists on a wide variety of quote inputting and social media functions for Quote Catalog. Visit her personal website here.
Kendra Syrdal is a writer, editor, partner, and senior publisher for The Thought & Expression Company. Over the last few years she has been personally responsible for writing, editing, and producing over 30+ million pageviews on Thought Catalog.