Poets Online Archive - Titles That Invite Us

There was a poem by Billy Collins in Poetry titled "Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause to Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles." The point of the poem being that it is refreshing to read poems that make it easy to enter because the title "turn[s] over so many cards so early." Our poem this time, "My Daughter at 14,Christmas Dance, 1981" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan from her book Where I Come From does this too. The title eases us graciously into a time and place, introduces the characters, takes a breath, and tells its story. For our current prompt, let us use a title to establish what is to come. Not necessarily a long title, or setting & characters, but one that clearly opens a door and points the way down the passage. There are plenty of people who will never visit this site or read more poems because somewhere along the way they got the idea that the door should be locked and the passageway dark. Push open a door, turn on the light....

Thirty Years Later, Still Smoking Cigarettes, Staring at the Ocean and Longing for Some Boy

This time it's Marlboro Lights
instead of Salems,
and this time it's a boy
even more handsome than the other one.
The marsh grass is still that
plaintive shade of green,
and it's the same ocean.

Along the shallow river to the
sea I saw a gray heron
trying to lift itself,
lily pads alive with their own
white and luscious luxe.
And I was wearing a white linen shirt
and being carried in a canoe
to the edge of the marsh.

These seasons come and go and--
every green thing restless
for its burrowing place and
then the rising and-- never satisfied
to be still for very long,
coming back regardless
to lengthen along the water's green plank:
stripeheads, and sloe-eyed frogs.

This is the song of the immaculate
river, half salt/
fresh water recapitulation
of bramble tunnel and
mud flat. I have been in
this canoe a long time
in the middle passage
of someone else's journey.

And now I'm smoking and
thinking about the boy,
the brown summer in his skin,
his hair wild as the everything around me
I can't have.

I will smoke myself senseless and--
I will lay this day flat
and all the others with the
colder ones coming on,
and the ocean keeps coming back for more,
for more of it.

Mary DeBow

Waking on a Glacier in Safety but Considering the Outcome Should I Fall Gently with the Storm into the Abyssal Welcome of that Crevasse Over There. Granola Gone.

Supine, I strain to catch nary a sound, a beggar's whisper, into my
smirry mind
the moonless midnight Alpine sky stares broken by the gentle silhouette
of the Jungfrau with me the sully river below creaks inch by inch to the
Inn., the glacier's soul, content, patient that her relentless pace
shall ne'er be hindered: I, a pitiless mite on her back, thinking I
have conquered, while she below does not wake for me.
Where is her Beyond?  Would I see it, a passenger in the crevasse?
Would I feel it, unable to escape, yet reconciled with my Bitterness?
Would I meet them, the strangers of the far off future who would come
upon me at the foot of the mountain after my journey through the long
long cold of my ice ages to come?

David Raafenberg

On Making Chili On My 40th Wedding Anniversary

Get it all together and begin.
Check the recipe,
But remember - it's only a rough guide.
Look what's in it:

Garlic - minced fine - a powerful insistence.
Onions - chopped - take your time
(Be ready to cry)
Brown slowly in butter.
Peppers, sweet and green, bleed a grassy essence.

Then, tongue-needling chili powder and cumin,
Earth's salt, perfumed bay leaf,
And meat - given up - cut,
Stripped from bone and ground.

Brown - bring to a boil,
Simmer, simmer, stir.
All the makings take goodness from one another
And - in enough time - become

Jim O'Rourke

After My Grandmother's Warning:  "Only a Cow is Contented"

Look how the dew
has settled on the edges
of each blade,
hanging, hovering,
defying gravity in this humid dawn.
My haunches twitch with anticipation
for the moment just after the sun
crests the hill over there,
the one before the trees,
before the mountains.
When I've finished eating,
I will tuck in at the joint,
lean back, lean into
those sharpened blades of grass.

Susan Kaye

I Catch Diana Toweling From Her Bath

The water beaded on her back
in a place towel did not reach,
her unwashed hair brilliant
in the sunlight of eight o'clock,
balancing delicately on one foot
as the other was dried
on the edge of the tub,
and she caught my face
frightened in the mirror
and said
Do not worry. It's just a myth

Charles Michaels


Mercury is metal --
silvery and slippery -
dropped on black marble --
a galaxy
swims into view...
As a child
my little sister
would sneak into the refrigerator
to bite off the end
of a stick of margarine...
I tried it
acappella myself --
a high note
stuck under the skin
at the roof of my mouth...
For me, a most
unpleasant abuse.
And my epistemology is this:
Some knowledge draws us
away from the good
some towards it --
Right rules of usage
govern privilege...
When the refrigerator
quit running
we took the handle off
taped it up
and sat it outside...
Of course, I never played in it
It could have been a quiet,
private place.


Poem That I Wish He Had Sent Me After We Kissed On That Bridge

After I had held you for the first time
and for the first time you had lowered
your defenses, I could see you turn
your head and try to identify
the sound that seems so distant
but is actually very soft and very near
and is the echo of your own steps
crossing, for the first time,
that bridge of sighs.

Pamela Milne

Why I Love My Lover

He asked me to dance-
and i accepted
He asked me to be his-
and i accepted
He asked me to lead
and he followed
he asked me to be his and i am
he offered me the love i have never felt before
and i accepted
he loves me more than i deserve
and that is why he is mine
he asked me to come
and i followed
i asked him to help
and he carried
he asked me to wait
like he would
and i will

Brandi Semler

Just Another Ordinary Night at the Fair

But I knew the difference.
The breeze a little darker,
maybe the cotton candy
mix too sweet for our longing,
we wove through neon tendrils
towards the ride that was so much
less the ride than the screeching
supernova of dreaming
ourselves far-gone and flying
through high, airy avenues
and the black, blank-slate spaces
between stars, towards opening
wheel-spoked possibilities,
just out of reach, now reaching
them dizzy, throbbing, ready.

Steve Shaheen



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