To a Fellow Poet

The title of Gerald Stern's poem "Lilacs for Ginsberg - (from This Time: New and Selected Poems ) - (written at the passing of Allen Ginsberg) recalls Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" (written at Abraham Lincoln's death.) There is a long history of poems written for other poets - from Ben Jonson on Shakespeare, Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats", to contemporary poems like Billy Collins' "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes."
Try a poem written for, about, or inspired by another poet - living or dead. You may want to adapt their style, echo a poem of theirs, write a tribute. If it's not obvious, let us know who the poet is that you are addressing.


On Wednesday afternoon I want
to spend wild nights, wild nights
with you. All dimity convictions
removed, both of us blazing white
elections in the green day glow
like love, with love, in love. Each
of us the other's selection, we will
make so many poems we cannot
name them. While we are rowing
in Eden, rowing in Eden, others
will assign them numbers, but we,
we will be too caught up to count
beyond the zero at our bones.

Mikal Lofgren

Leaving Home
after William Carlos Williams’ “The Widow's Lament in Springtime”

The branches are bare
gray as they are every

but this season their
reach is kinetic, their

enervate the blank sky.
I count trees in our yard.

there are seven which throw
lattices of shade on the grass.
Not one

is rooted in our garden.
Coming over a hill, I face
a cloud

so blue and vast it is a mountain
against the sky.  I ache for
such sights.

Thirty years I have lived in this town.
How long I've turned away,

I drive past an acre split into lots
and homes, remember its history:
long grass

and apple trees where we
would escape our fenced yards,

swimming pools, woods
where the wild dogs lived

Laura Shovan

Apology to John Keats

The bloody cough came
and you went to Italy
to die. I saw the stone:
Here lies one whose name
was writ in water.
This living hand is
embarrassed to use it
in a poem, so pale a thing
it is, that

a year later the Italians
would find Shelley
drowned at their shore,
a volume of your poems
in his pocket. For him,
cremation and the legend says
that his heart, unburnt,
was taken away. The day

is gone when I loved
your life more than
your words -
see, here it is -
I hold it towards you.

Charles Michaels

Between Paul Zimmer and Me

Zimmer told of losing religion
and I faced those questions too
He tempted God
and tempted His wrath
as I did
He looked for some validation
of his fear of God
as I did
and felt no vindication
as I have
He looked for Jesus,
in this corner, "a wiry flyweight"
and in this corner a heavyweight disbeliever
Zimmer told of losing religion
and I faced those questions too
together we waited to be struck on our
"irreverent teeth"
but Zimmer lost religion
and me?  That's between Zimmer and me

Brandi Semler

*This poem makes reference to the Paul Zimmer poem entitled "The Day Zimmer Lost Religion"

First Born
for Anne Sexton

I saw your picture before I read your poems.
You were in a white dress,
bare fashion model shoulders
three bracelets.
You looked unlike poets I knew.
Later, I discovered your first daughter
was born, like me, in 1953.
Your first attempt when she was three.
You saw something on television about sonnets
and wrote a few that you showed to your shrink.
We both turned fourteen the year you won a Pulitzer
and when I was starting my senior year of college,
you found yourself ten books behind
with no chance of catching up.
The poems still talk to me.

Lianna Wright

are thee well my dear?
for you have gone away
when shall you be back?
if and when you do, will you let me know?
you have shared your laughter
as well as your tears
you have shared with the world
you let us into your thoughts
some pleasant
some sad
you have showed us all what you think,
though some do not know
we will remember Romeo
we will loathe Macbeth
we will think of the Globe
and think of you
we will sit in class and be taught
we will really never know who you were
only of your writing
who was the real Shakespeare?
who was the man
we know the writing,
but who was the writer?
i think a little bit of everyone

Karie Rothwell

for e.e. cummings

It's a sun smiling
h-a-n-d-h-o-l-d-i-n-g kind of day.
The tide is splashing in
yapping frantic warnings
at our feet
what flows must ebb

Carole Reed

        For Maxine Kumin, Anne Sexton and my friend Karla

On my bookshelf, Maxine, your
book touches Anne's resting close,
hers leaning slightly, listening
ear-cocked for your familiar voice.

I will not separate them, after
hearing you speak in a cool
auditorium on a meltingly
hot summer-June day.

You spoke of Anne sadly, slowly
rowing beyond your reach.
"Today," you said, "doctors
would answer her longing with

pills. Medicine melted into her
bloodstream would float down
where life is dammed, opening
the floodgates in time.

A year later my friend, Karla
looks over my head, "Pills make
me feel stupid," she says. She
too takes up the oars.

On a hot summer night,
there is an edge in her voice,
the first time I meet the manic.
"I've just spoken with the

Queen." she says. "What about?"
I reply. Her eyes are so bright, I
avoid the glare    looking down,
following my hands into my lap.

"It's the oil. I've convinced her.
It's wrong. What she's doing.
I've been dancing for hours.
Look, there are blisters on my

feet. Can I rest here?"   "Yes,"
I say, "I'm glad you talked to the
Queen. Now rest." But she glides
into the dark, impossibly rowing.

Karen A. Kimbell

Black Leopard
(inspired by "Dogs," by Tim Seibles)

The leopard knows he's entertainment.
 He hears the kid tapping on the glass, going, "Here, kitty, kitty."
 He hears the dude with the big stomach impressing his scrawny girlfriend:
"Man, what I could do to that thing with a thirty-thirty."
He knows everyone thinks he's mean.
He knows they're waiting for him to look mean, like lunge at a sparrow.
He knows if he does, even though he sometimes wants to,
he'll feel like he was tricked.
He knows the story the tour guides tell over and over--that when they moved him
in here and he ate the palm bush to show who was boss--sickens him worse than
the palm spears did in his stomach.
 He sees the chrome knob on his cage turn and knows a hunk of meat is about to
be thrown inside from a pointy stick.
He knows he lives here because the weather's warm year round and he's supposed
to mate and help save the species.
 He remembers the last time they tried to make him save the species.
He remembers he didn't want to and they made jokes.
 He knows a guy will come in tonight and spray all the shit down the drain.
 He knows the guy won't look at him.
 He knows the guys thinks if he looks at him, one of them will get all riled up.
 He knows there's something weird about having this sleek body that could leap
from here to the Penguin House.
 He knows the window between him and his prey was put up by his prey.
 He knows if they let him out, he wouldn't know what to do.

 Nancy Cook

                I Will Die Laughing
( For Jeanne Calment, who lived 122 years)
(inspired by Thomas Lux's "I Love You Sweatheart")

I dream, I think, I go over my life.
A woman lived that long,
held on like Spiderman on a wall
suction-cupped to life's edge.
God must have forgotten me.
She waves her bent fingers in the air,
milky eyes looking somewhere else,
looking back, maybe, to the years before
telephones and medical research
to a time when God took matters squarely into his hands-
when she and Fernand ate cherries one night
unaware that they were spoiled,
drank their port wine, slowly inhaled rolled cigarettes,
exhaled deeply, watched the moon
take over the sky-
That night God remembered Fernand,
scooped him into his crescent arms,
left her behind to live another fifty years.
If you can't do anything about it, don't worry about it.
How lucky to be able to review your life
like a book of someone else's pages, without remorse,
with no reason other than to die laughing.

Susan Rothbard 

The Globe (inspired by several poems by Billy Collins)

The snow globe that you bought the first spring we owned the cabin
because it had a cabin, a lake, the pines and our porch - minus the chairs.
They’ve taken the chairs in you said They’re sitting by the fireplace.
Then where is the smoke? I asked.
They just arrived. Instead of starting a fire, they made love on the floor
in front of the hearth. Now, they’ll make a fire.

I left the globe on the porch railing last fall.
I meant to set it on top of a full box on the way to the car.
It froze during the winter and the freezing burst the globe.

Last night’s snow covered it over and this morning’s sun was enough
that the cabin roof and treetops are showing.
I pick up the shards of glass and pull out the pieces still held in the base.
Free from its watery winter, it can stay there and deal with each season
as it was meant to be.
I crush the delicate petals of glass in my hand.

Ken Ronkowitz



2015 poetsonline.org | | | | | |