National Poetry Month, Day 19: Kenneth Koch

My copy, still dog-eared from my wedding

My copy, still dog-eared from my wedding


Today’s poem is a favorite of mine. It’s the poem my brother read at my wedding, in fact. A good love poem is a difficult thing to do well–love, it turns out, is not unique, and often poems that are truly about love–and not about, say, the loss of love–can sound trite very quickly.

But Kenneth Koch’s “To You,” wow–“I am crazier than shirttails/In the wind, when you’re near” and “I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields/Always, to be near you….”

Via this link, you can hear this poem being read, and I advise listening, since, read aloud, this poem takes on an entirely new quality, very conversational, intimate, confessional. Enjoy.

To You
I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
Through which he saw her head, connecting with
Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;
For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails
In the wind, when you?re near, a wind that blows from
The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;
I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields
Always, to be near you, even in my heart
When I?m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you
Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to
The place where I again think of you, a new
Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow
Of a ship which sails
From Hartford to Miami, and I love you
Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun
Receives me in the questions which you always pose.
? Kenneth Koch, from Modern American Poets: Their Voices and Visions (Random House, 1987)

National Poetry Month, Day 8: Sharon Olds

Today I reblog an old entry, year-ago old, when I congratulated poet Sharon Olds on winning the Pulitzer prize and posted this poem. I remember my mom really liked this poem, and I did too, so here it is again. Enjoy.

Grandmother Love Poem

Late in her life, when we fell in love,

I?d take her out from the nursing home

for a chaser and two bourbons. She?d crack

a joke sharp as a tin lid

hot from the teeth of the can-opener,

and cackle her crack-corn laugh. Next to her

wit, she prided herself on her hair,

snowy and abundant. She would lift it up

at the nape of the neck, there in the bar,

and under the white, under the salt-and-

pepper, she?d show me her true color,

the color it was when she was a bride:

like her sex in the smoky light she would show me

the pure black.

? Sharon Olds, from The Dead and The Living

A Poem for Fall

Thank you, Wikimedia Commons

Thank you, Wikimedia Commons

Back when I was in graduate school in Western Massachusetts, fall was the loveliest time. I realized that when I was studying something I loved, returning to school felt great. And autumn in Western Mass came in like a wildfire, all the trees in flames. I remember walking around Northampton’s cemeteries and fields looking at all the life–pumpkins! By the hundreds!–and the death–leaves losing their pigment, landing on the ground. The days were warm and the nights, deliciously crisp–like an apple (more life). That pull between two worlds fueled me and all I wanted to do was write. For many years, fall was the most productive time of my writing life.

These days, I live in Northern California, where fall’s idea of change is that the fog is a little more absent and the air is very dry. Later in the season we might get a colorful leaf or two, if we’re lucky. And now I have a kid, and fall means packing lunches and figuring out aftercare and new clothes and new friendships and new beginnings. For the second or third year in a row, I am not feeling inspired and productive; I’m feeling quite blah. Every morning I wake craving that New England crispness, a vision of leaves, that lovely stretch of time between my birthday, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, before winter sets in (don’t even get me started on winter in Northern California). And I get…sunshine? No discernible change at all?

And so, herewith, is a poem for today. It’s a love poem, for fall, written during one of those seasons when all I could do was write. Nostalgic, maybe? Today, yes. I hope you enjoy it.

(Side note: does anyone know how to make WordPress format poetry? This should be in couplets.)


I would grasp your shoulders like a yoke

and ride you into the start of something.

How would it be to feel so useful?

And write a short book about the time

you broke your collarbone in three places:

your eyes on morphine green, unafraid, almost unseeing.

I think I?ll make up some words today, one to describe

yellow and orange and red trees in fog from the bus window,

one to replace lonesome,

one for mornings I hate to get up but do so

knowing it?s what humans do when the world?s a-light,

and love?s a thousand miles in the wrong direction.

? Susie Meserve 2013