Bird Man by David Driskell

driskell_bird_man

You Can’t Write a Poem about McDonald’s

Noon. Hunger is the only thing
singing in my belly.
I walk through the blossoming cherry trees
on the library mall,
past the young couples coupling,
by the crazy fanatic
screaming doom and salvation
at a sensation-hungry crowd,
to the Lake Street McDonald’s.
It is crowded, the lines long and sluggish.
I wait in the greasy air.
All around me people are eating –
the sizzle of conversation,
the salty odor of sweat,
the warm flesh pressing out of
hip huggers and halter tops.
When I finally reach the cash register,
the counter girl is crisp as a pickle,
her fingers thin as French fries,
her face brown as a bun.
Suddenly I understand cannibalism.
As I reach for her,
she breaks into pieces
wrapped neat and packaged for take-out.
I’m thinking, how amazing it is
to live in this country, how easy
it is to be filled.
We leave together, her warm aroma
close at my side.
I walk back through the cherry trees
blossoming up into pies,
the young couple frying in
the hot, oily sun,
the crowd eating up the fanatic,
singing, my ear, my eye, my tongue
fat with the wonder
of this hungry world.

~ Ronald Wallace

A Suspended Blue Ocean

The sky
Is a suspended blue ocean.
The stars are the fish
That swim.

The planets are the white whales
I sometimes hitch a ride on,

And the sun and all light
Have forever fused themselves

Into my heart and upon
My skin.

There is only one rule
On this Wild Playground,

For every sign Hafiz has ever seen
Reads the same.

They all say,

“Have fun, my dear; my dear, have fun,
In the Beloved’s Divine
Game,

O, in the Beloved’s
Wonderful Game.”

~ Hafiz

[Speciously Individual]

Speciously individual
like a solid piece of spit
floating in a cuspidor
I dream of free bravery
but am a social being.
I should do something
to get out of here
but float around in the culture
wondering what it will grow.

~ Alan Dugan

In the Beginning

Sometimes simplicity rises
like a blossom of fire
from the white silk of your own skin.
You were there in the beginning
you heard the story, you heard the merciless
and tender words telling you where you had to go.
Exile is never easy and the journey
itself leaves a bitter taste. But then,
when you heard that voice, you had to go.
You couldn’t sit by the fire, you couldn’t live
so close to the live flame of that compassion
you had to go out in the world and make it your own
so you could come back with
that flame in your voice, saying listen…
this warmth, this unbearable light, this fearful love…
It is all here, it is all here.

~ David Whyte

Threshold

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
find the words you always wanted to say
and stand at the door of the day
and be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

~ David Whyte

Excerpt from “Coleman’s Bed”

Two Creatures

The last time I looked, the dog was lying
on the freshly cut grass
but now she has moved under the picnic table.

I wonder what causes her to shift
from one place to another,
to get up for no apparent reason from her spot

by the stove, scratch one ear,
then relocate, slumping down
on the other side of the room by the big window,

or I will see her hop onto the couch to nap
then later find her down
on the Turkish carpet, her nose in the fringe.

The moon rolls across the night sky
and stops to peer down on the earth,
and the dog rolls through these rooms

and onto the lawn, pausing here and there
to sleep or to stare up at me, head in her paws,
to consider the scentless pen in my hand

or the open book on my lap.
And because her eyes always follow me,
she must wonder, too, why

I shift from place to place,
from the couch to the sink
or the pencil sharpener on the wall –

two creatures bound by the wonderment
though unlike her, I have never once worried
after letting her out the back door

that she would take off in the car
and leave me to die
behind the solid locked doors of this house.

~ Billy Collins

What She Said

When he told me he expected me to pay for dinner,
I was like give me a break.

I was not the exact equivalent of give me a break.
I was just similar to give me a break.

As I said, I was like give me a break.

I would love to tell you
how I was able to resemble give me a break
without actually being identical to give me a break,

but all I can say is that I sensed
a similarity between me and give me a break.

And that was close enough
at that point in the evening

even if it meant I would fall short
of standing up from the table and screaming
give me a break,

for God’s sake will you please give me a break?!

No, for that moment
with the rain streaking the restaurant windows
and the waiter approaching,

I felt the most I could be was like

to a certain degree

give me a break.

~ Billy Collins

Undivided Attention

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps – like classical music’s
birthday gift to the insane –
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

~ Taylor Mali

Totally like whatever, you know?

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .
whatever!

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

~ Taylor Mali

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