Linda Pastan

Showing 21 posts tagged Linda Pastan

Prosody 101

When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn’t understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry!

—Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening

blizzard

the snow
has forgotten
how to stop
it falls
stuttering
at the glass
of a silk windsock
of snow
blowing
under the porch light
tangling trees
which bend
like old women
snarled
in their own
knitting
snow drifts
up to the step
over the doorsill
a pointillist’s blur
the wedding
of form and motion
shaping itself
to the wish of
any object it touches
chairs become
laps of snow
the moon could be
breaking apart
and falling
over the eaves
over the roof
a white bear
shaking its paw
at the window
splitting the hive
of winter
snow stinging
the air
I pull a comforter
of snow
up to my chin
and tumble
to sleep
as the whole
alphabet
of silence
falls out of the
sky

—Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening

Thanksgiving Ghost

Like a palimpsest
with traces of the past
showing through,

our table
recapitulates
her favorite feast:

the iconic bird
with its secret
wishbone;

baskets of Indian corn;
a still life of winter
vegetables;

and there,
three generations down,
her pale blue eyes

watching
from the child’s
oblivious face.

Even candles leave behind
invisible fragrance,
and every book

on every shelf
has its half-imagined
sequel.

—Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light: Poems

FIRST LINES FROM NEW BOOKS OUT TODAY: JULY 2, 2012
"For over fifteen years, I have been facilitating weekly philosophical dialogues called Socrates Cafe, hoping to revive a form of inquiry made famous by the ancient Greek philosopher. A hallmark of a vibrant democracy is that citizens willingly consider a wide range of objections and alternatives to their own way of seeing things. Socrates Cafe is meant to be a space for friends and foes, intimates and strangers alike, to explore—thoughtfully and reasonably—timely and timeless existential problems, an exploration that itself makes people feel more bound to one another."Constitution Cafe: Jefferson’s Brew for A True Revolution by Christopher Phillips
"They fled. Tom Phillips to Orlando, Brady Johnson to Dallas, Jeff Lombardo to Chicago, Tim Forrester to L.A. David couldn’t think of a single friend from high school who still lived in Detroit, or anywhere near it. David himself had moved to Denver, but now he was back."Say Nice Things About Detroit: A Novel by Scott Lasser
"Once I had a good church voiceand having been a Knight of the Altar,I have impeccable church manners.I know that sounds superior,but it’s not something I brag about,rather it’s a small, inner satisfactionand nothing like the superioritythe church organist from my childhood parishdisplayed when it came time for him,the last congregant to take communion,to climb down from his bench,exit the sacristy, and through the side chapelgain the main aisle, all the whilehis hands flattened together,like two soft trowels, arms extended,elbow turned out, and his headwith its grayish, Liberace pompadour,thrown back, eyes heavenward.”An Individual History: Poems by Michael Collier
"They stole my mother’s silver,melting it down, perhaps,into pure mineral, worthonly its own weight.”Traveling Light: Poems by Linda Pastan High-res

FIRST LINES FROM NEW BOOKS OUT TODAY: JULY 2, 2012

"For over fifteen years, I have been facilitating weekly philosophical dialogues called Socrates Cafe, hoping to revive a form of inquiry made famous by the ancient Greek philosopher. A hallmark of a vibrant democracy is that citizens willingly consider a wide range of objections and alternatives to their own way of seeing things. Socrates Cafe is meant to be a space for friends and foes, intimates and strangers alike, to explore—thoughtfully and reasonably—timely and timeless existential problems, an exploration that itself makes people feel more bound to one another."
Constitution Cafe: Jefferson’s Brew for A True Revolution by Christopher Phillips

"They fled. Tom Phillips to Orlando, Brady Johnson to Dallas, Jeff Lombardo to Chicago, Tim Forrester to L.A. David couldn’t think of a single friend from high school who still lived in Detroit, or anywhere near it. David himself had moved to Denver, but now he was back."
Say Nice Things About Detroit: A Novel by Scott Lasser

"Once I had a good church voice
and having been a Knight of the Altar,
I have impeccable church manners.
I know that sounds superior,
but it’s not something I brag about,
rather it’s a small, inner satisfaction
and nothing like the superiority
the church organist from my childhood parish
displayed when it came time for him,
the last congregant to take communion,
to climb down from his bench,
exit the sacristy, and through the side chapel
gain the main aisle, all the while
his hands flattened together,
like two soft trowels, arms extended,
elbow turned out, and his head
with its grayish, Liberace pompadour,
thrown back, eyes heavenward.”
An Individual History: Poems by Michael Collier

"They stole my mother’s silver,
melting it down, perhaps,
into pure mineral, worth
only its own weight.”
Traveling Light: Poems by Linda Pastan

Time Travel

Elizabeth would choose
The Middle Ages
when cathedrals grew
like stalagmites
out of hard ground,
and rainbows coalesced
to stained glass.

David would choose the 17th century.
He’d whisper in the ear
of Galileo about dark matter
and space explorers; he’d tell him
never mind The Church,
you’re canonized in all the textbooks.

Rachel might pick the 19th century,
a country house like the ones in Jane Austen;
or a dacha perhaps, outside of Moscow,
despite the fierce cold,
not to mention the increasingly
angry peasants.

But I would simply choose May 1932
the moment I was born on the Grand Concourse.
I’d insinuate myself into the head
of that girl baby, living her life
all over again
but doing it right this time.

—Linda Pastan, a poem from Traveling Light (now in paperback)

Emily Dickinson

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

—Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening

Marks

My husband gives me an A
for last night’s supper,
an incomplete for my ironing,
a B plus in bed.
My son says I am average,
an average mother, but if 
I put my mind to it
I could improve.
My daughter believes
in Pass/Fail and tells me
I pass. Wait ‘til they learn
I’m dropping out.

—Linda Pastan, from The Five Stages of Grief

An Early Afterlife

“…a wise man in time of peace, shall make the necessary preparations for war.”
–Horace

Why don’t we say goodbye right now
in the fallacy of perfect health
before whatever is going to happen
happens. We could perfect our parting,
like those characters in On the Beach
who said farewell in the shadow
of the bomb as we sat watching,
young and holding hands at the movies.
We could use the loving words
we otherwise might not have time to say.
We could hold each other for hours
in a quintessential dress rehearsal.


Then we could just continue
for however many years were left.
The ragged things that are coming next
arteries closing like rivers silting over,
or rampant cells stampeding us to the exit
would be like postscripts to our lives
and wouldn’t matter. And we would bask
in an early afterlife of ordinary days,
impervious to the inclement weather
already in our long-range forecast.
Nothing could touch us. We’d never
have to say goodbye again.

—Linda Pastan, from An Early Afterlife

Prosody 101

When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn’t understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry!

—Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening