classics found on a dusty bookshelf – “i have a good digestion and there is a god after all”

the robin and the worm
archy

a robin said to an
angleworm as he ate him
i am sorry but a bird
has to live somehow the
worm being slow witted could
not gather his
dissent into a wise crack
and retort he was
effectually swallowed
before he could turn
a phrase
by the time he had
reflected long enough
to say but why must a
bird live
he felt the beginnings
of a gradual change
invading him
some new and disintegrating
influence
was stealing along him
from his positive
to his negative pole
and he did not have
the mental stamina
of a jonah to resist the
insidious
process of assimilation
which comes like a thief
in the night
demons and fishhooks
he exclaimed
i am losing my personal
identity as a worm
my individuality
is melting away from me
odds craw i am becoming
part and parcel of
this bloody robin
so help me i am thinking
like a robin and not
like a worm any
longer yes yes i even
find myself agreeing
that a robin must live
i still do not
understand with my mentality
why a robin must live
and yet i swoon into a
condition of belief
yes yes by heck that is
my dogma and i shout it a
robin must live
amen said a beetle who had
preceded him into the
interior that is the way i
feel myself is it not
wonderful when one arrives
at the place
where he can give up his
ambitions and resignedly
nay even with gladness
recognize that it is a far
far better thing to be
merged harmoniously
in the cosmic all
and this comfortable situation
in his midst
so affected the marauding
robin that he perched
upon a blooming twig
and sang until the
blossoms shook with ecstasy
he sang
i have a good digestion
and there is a god after all
which i was wicked
enough to doubt
yesterday when it rained
breakfast breakfast
i am full of breakfast
and they are at breakfast
in heaven
they breakfast in heaven
all is well with the world
so intent was this pious and
murderous robin
on his own sweet song
that he did not notice
mehitabel the cat
sneaking toward him
she pounced just as he
had extended his larynx
in a melodious burst of
thanksgiving and
he went the way of all
flesh fish and good red herring
a ha purred mehitabel
licking the last
feather from her whiskers
was not that a beautiful
song he was singing
just before i took him to
my bosom
they breakfast in heaven
all s well with the world
how true that is
and even yet his song
echoes in the haunted
woodland of my midriff
peace and joy in the world
and over all the
provident skies
how beautiful is the universe
when something digestible meets
with an eager digestion
how sweet the embrace
when atom rushes to the arms
of waiting atom
and they dance together
skimming with fairy feet
along a tide of gastric juices
oh feline cosmos you were
made for cats
and in the spring
old cosmic thing
i dine and dance with you
i shall creep through
yonder tall grass
to see if peradventure
some silly fledgling thrushes
newly from the nest
be not floundering therein
i have a gusto this
morning i have a hunger
i have a yearning to hear
from my stomach
further music in accord with
the mystic chanting
of the spheres of the stars that
sang together in the dawn of
creation prophesying food
for me i have a faith
that providence has hidden for me
in yonder tall grass
still more
ornithological delicatessen
oh gayly let me strangle
what is gayly given
well well boss there is
something to be said
for the lyric and imperial
attitude
believe that everything is for
you until you discover
that you are for it
sing your faith in what you
get to eat right up to the
minute you are eaten
for you are going
to be eaten
will the orchestra please
strike up that old
tutankhamen jazz while i dance
a few steps i learnt from an
egyptian scarab and some day i
will narrate to you the most
merry light headed wheeze
that the skull of yorick put
across in answer to the
melancholy of the dane and also
what the ghost of
hamlet s father replied to the skull
not forgetting the worm that
wriggled across one of the picks
the grave diggers had left behind
for the worm listened and winked
at horatio while the skull and the
ghost and prince talked
saying there are more things
twixt the vermiform appendix
and nirvana than are dreamt of
in thy philosophy horatio
fol de riddle fol de rol
must every parrot be a poll

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“deeper than dirt” by Rachel McKibbens, the best piece of writing you will read today, or maybe even this week or month

deeper than dirt
Rachel McKibbens

after the poet asked how I would bury my brother

Beyond the carrots and blind white worms, beyond
the yellowing bone orchards and corkscrew roots,
beyond the center of this churchless earth, beloved Peter,
my little sorcerer, brought up dirty & wrong, you deserve more
than to be smothered in mud. For all the gravel you were fed,
for every bruise and knot that named you, I must plant you
in a bed of blood-hot muscle, must deliver you into me,
so I may
carry you as the only mother you have ever known.

About This Poem

“Poets of witness navigate the world in such a peculiar way, seeking justice through writing; punishing and praising with language. This poem is entirely for my quiet brother who is blessed with the gift of withholding.”

–Rachel McKibbens

Poem-A-Day
Launched during National Poetry Month in 2006, Poem-A-Day features new and previously unpublished poems by contemporary poets on weekdays and classic poems on weekends. Browse the Poem-A-Day Archive.


Into the Dark & Emptying Field

Into the Dark & Emptying Field

Copyright © 2013 by Rachel McKibbens. Used with permission of the author.

New Year Resolve by May Sarton

New Year Resolve
May Sarton

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

“New Year Resolve” by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.

but I need pleasure like I need air, now, when

Dadaism Versus Surrealism, by Romanian poet Angela Marinescu, translated by Martin Woodside in his anthology Of Gentle Wolves.

Dadaism Versus Surrealism

put your fingers between my legs
I can no longer stand the act of sex
which seems to me dadaist, whereas
fingers wander a precise surrealist
a collection agent what I hate the most
but I need pleasure like I need air, now, when
thrust on the peak of solitude
and all my generation stays in You

like a lead soldier on duty

I don’t know what else to do
but write slow and free
like the soft rain
of spring.

from “Hunting Manual” by Eleanor Wilner

from her book Shekhinah

from “Hunting Manual”

…But the hard prey is the one
that won’t come bidden.

By these signs you will know it:
when you lift your lure
out of the water, the long plastic line
will be missing its end: the lure and the hook
will be gone, and the line will swing free
in the air, so light it will be without
bait or its cunning
sharp curl of silver. Or when you pull
your net from the stream, it will be eaten
as if by acid, its fine mesh sodden shreds.
Or when you go at dawn to check your traps,
their great metal jaws will be wrenched
open, the teeth blunt with rust
as if they had lain for years in the rain.
Or when the thunderstorm suddenly breaks
in the summer, next morning
the computer’s memory will be blank.

Look then for the blank card, the sprung trap,
the net’s dissolve, the unburdened
line that swings free in the air.
There. By day, go empty-handed to the hunt
and come home the same way
in the dark.

on Adrienne

from Hugh MacDiarmid’s manifesto “The Kind of Poetry I Want,” quoted by Adrienne in her speech/essay “Poetry and Commitment.”

A poetry the quality of which
Is a stand made against intellectual apathy,
Its material founded, like Gray’s, on difficult knowledge
And its metres those of a poet
Who has studied Pindar and Welsh poetry,
But, more than that, its words coming from a mind
Which has experienced the sifted layers on layers
Of human lives—aware of the innumerable dead
And the innumerable to-be-born…

A speech, a poetry, to bring to bear upon life
The concentrated strength of all our being…

Poetry of such an integration as cannot be effected
Until a new and conscious organization of society
Generates a new view
Of the world as a whole…

—A learned poetry wholly free
of the brutal love of ignorance;
And the poetry of a poet with no use
For any of the simpler forms of personal success