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[17 Jan 2008|12:45am]
I decided that the only books that I refer back to or re-read often enough to justify keeping them are:

-poetry books
-dictionaries and other reference books
-instructional books
-collections of short stories
-books I have yet to read

I love reading poetry although I don't do it all that often. I sometimes get really into it and read nothing but poetry for hours at a time, but not much aside from that. I recently discovered two poets whose work I like a lot: Sharon Olds and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Olds' poems are simple and easy to understand but she describes things beautifully. Ferlinghetti's are both serious and playful in a likable, non-gimmicky way. I like Yusef Komunyakaa a lot too but that's nothing new.

"At the Screen Door" by Yusef Komunyakaa

Just before sunlight
Burns off morning fog.
Is it her, while she know
What I've seen & done,
How my boots leave little grave-stone
Shapes in the wet dirt,
That I'm no longer light
On my feet, there's a rock
In my belly? It weighs
As much as the story
Paul told me, moving ahead
Like it knows my heart.
Is this the same story
That sent him to a padded cell?
After all the men he'd killed in Korea
& on his first tour in Vietnam,
Someone tracked him down.
The Spec 4 he ordered
Into a tunnel in Cu Chi
Now waited for him behind
The screen door, a sunset
In his eyes, a dead man
Wearing his teenage son's face.
The scream that leaped
Out of Paul's mouth
Wasn't his, not this decorated
Hero. The figure standing there
Wasn't his son. Who is it
Waiting for me, a tall shadow
Unlit in the doorway, no more
Than an outline of the past?
I drop the duffel bag
& run before I know it,
Running toward her, the only one
I couldn't have surprised,
Who'd be here at daybreak
Watching a new day stumble
Through a whiplash of grass
Like a man drunk on the rage
Of being alive.

"Songs for My Father" is another of my favorites of his.

"Birthday Poem for My Grandmother" by Sharon Olds

I stood on the porch tonight--which way do we
face to talk to the dead? I thought of the
new rose, and went out over the
grey lawn--things really
have no color at night. I descended
the stone steps, as if to the place where one
speaks to the dead. The rose stood
half-uncurled, glowing white in the
black air. Later I remembered
your birthday. You would have been ninety and getting
roses from me. Are the dead there
if we do not speak to them? When I came to see you
you were always sitting quietly in the chair,
not knitting, because of the arthritis,
not reading, because of the blindness,
just sitting. I never knew how you
did it or what you were thinking. Now I
sometimes sit on the porch, waiting,
trying to feel you there like the color of the
flowers in the dark.

"The End" by Sharon Olds

We decided to have the abortion, became
killers together. The period that came
changed nothing. They were dead, that young couple
who had been for life.
As we talked of it in bed, the crash
was not a surprise. We went to the window,
looked at the crushed cars and the gleaming
curved shears of glass as if we had
done it. Cops pulled the bodies out
bloody as births from the small, smoking
aperture of the door, laid them
on the hill, covered them with blankets that soaked
through. Blood
began to pour
down my legs into my slippers. I stood
where I was until they shot the bound
form into the black hole
of the ambulance and stood the other one
up, a bandage covering its head,
stained where the eyes had been.
The next morning I had to kneel
an hour on that floor, to clean up my blood,
rubbing with wet cloths at those dark
translucent spots, as one has to soak
a long time to deglaze the pan
when the feast is over.

And Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poems are goddamn long, so here's "Autobiography" and here's "I Am Waiting."

I also just ordered the book Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis, since it was on Amazon used for only a quarter and it's hard to find. Two of my favorite poems from that: "Mehitabel's Extensive Past" and "The Song of Mehitabel" and "Certain Maxims of Archy."
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