Poetry Potluck

January 30, 2023

  This week is a poetry potluck.  It’s your chance to bring something to the party–a poem you like or have questions about, a poem you’re drawn to but can’t quite get hold of, a poem you argue with, a poem you turn to for solace.  What we talk about this time depends on you.    Please click on Poetry Pot Luck in red on the right to add your own choices in the comments here,  and say why you chose them, or email them to me so I can include them in this week’s Fridays at 4 (eastern time) discussion.  I’ve provided a couple of appetizers.


Aimee Nezhukumatathil,
Miracle fruit changes the tongue. One bite,
and for hours all you eat is sweet. Placed
alone on a saucer, it quivers like it’s cold
from the ceramic, even in this Florida heat.
Small as a coffee bean, red as jam—
I can’t believe. The man who sold
it to my father on Interstate 542 had one
tooth, one sandal, and called me
“Duttah, Duttah.” I wanted to ask what
is that, but the red buds teased me
into our car and away from his fruit stand.
One bite. And if you eat it whole, it softens
and swells your teeth like a mouthful
of mallow. So how long before you lose
a sandal and still walk? How long
before you lose the sweetness?


Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
Share the word

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  • Reply Fredric Koeppel February 1, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    (fl. 620 BC, Sparta)
    trans. Guy Davenport

    You and I Together

    My hearth is cold but the day will come
    When a rich pot of red bean soup
    Is on the table, the kind Alkman loves,
    Good country cooking, nothing fine.
    The first day of Autumn, be my guest.

    I read this last night, about midnight, and was just struck with the simplicity and heart-felt feeling.

    • Reply Sharon February 1, 2023 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you for this. I agree–it’s beautiful. I love the quiet and simplicity, the depth of feeling.

  • Reply Anne Myles February 1, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    from Anne:

    4:13 AM

    Jill Alexander Essbaum

    The shift of sleepwalks and suicides.
    The occasion of owls and a demi-lune fog.
    Even God has nodded off

    And won’t be taking prayers til ten.
    Ad interim, you put them on.
    As if your wants could keep you warm.

    As if. You say your shibboleths.
    You thumb your beads. You scry the glass.
    Night creeps to its precipice

    And the broken rim of reason breaks
    Again. An obsidian sky betrays you.
    Every serrate shadow flays you.

    Soon enough, the crow will caw.
    The cock will crow. The door will close.
    (He isn’t coming back, you know.)

    And so wee, wet hours of grief relent.
    In thirty years you might forget
    Precisely how tonight’s pain felt.

    And in whose black house you dwelt.


    A clementine
    Of inclement climate
    Grows tart.

    A crocus
    Too stoic to open,

    Like an oyster
    That cloisters a spoil of pearls,

    The heart that’s had
    Stays shut.

  • Reply Sharon February 1, 2023 at 1:15 pm

    Anne, I like this. I’m sorry I can’t figure out how to insert the stanza breaks. The poem is in 6 3-line stanzas with a one-line stanza at the end.

  • Reply Elizabeth M Brown February 1, 2023 at 5:11 pm

    by Adam Zagajewski

    Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter
    half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.
    I live in strange cities and sometimes talk
    with strangers about matters strange to me.
    I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.
    I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.
    The fourth has no name.
    I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
    tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand
    the great philosophers–but usually catch just
    scraps of their precious thoughts.
    I like to take long walks on Paris streets
    and watch my fellow creature, quickened by envy,
    anger, desire; to trace a silver coin
    passing from hand to hand as it slowly
    loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased).
    Beside me trees expressing noting
    but a green, indifferent perfection.
    Black birds pace the fields,
    waiting patiently like Spanish widows.
    I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older.
    I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,
    and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses
    dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.
    Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me
    and irony suddenly vanishes.
    I love gazing at my wife’s face.
    Every Sunday I call my father.
    Every other week I meet with friends,
    thus proving my fidelity.
    My country freed itself from one evil. I wish
    another liberation would follow.
    Could I help in this? I don’t know.
    I’m truly not a child of the ocean,
    as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,
    but a child of air, mint and cello
    and not all the ways of the high world
    cross paths with the life that–so far–
    belongs to me.

    I love the poem, “Self Portrait” by Adam Zagajewski. Despite the repeated use of “I,” it strikes me as very generous. Not ego-centric in the negative sense, but transparent, vulnerable: “I try to understand/the great philosophers–but usually catch just/scraps of their precious thoughts.” The self as it relates to work, relationships, and landscape: “Black birds pace the fields,/waiting patiently like Spanish widows.” I see how an artist might arrange their day, their life: “Every Sunday I call my father./Every other week I meet with friends, /thus proving my fidelity.” I look at my own life, and think of how often I meet with my friends, talk to my children. I think of my landscapes, the rhythms of my day. Painters often paint self portraits. This poem inspired me to write self portrait of my own, which morphed into something quite different, but I’ll always credit A.Z. for the inspiration.

    • Reply Sharon February 1, 2023 at 5:15 pm

      Thank you for this, and for what you have to say about it. I think what you say about how talking to the poem helped you write one of your own is how most of poetry has worked–that poets’ ears are full of other poems in the tradition they’re stepping into, and often in conversation with them, even when it’s not consciously.

  • Reply Martha Zweig February 1, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    2 by Patricia Corbus


    A red planet mars the sky as I row
    my Tipsy Flame deeper into the Gulf,
    clouds gathering like choirboys
    for evening mass. I’ve left a heap
    of womanish weeps, painted ladies
    and red admirals, cute tricks
    like Buddhist flutists and nudist lutists,
    the family ideology, secret offenses.
    I look back at you on shore, one
    paw of a sundog glowering over your head,
    remembering how often the pomegranate
    broke open to spill its collective seeds,
    and how only one, star-split,
    magnified into you. Countless lights
    cast from your eyes. shoes, belt
    scatter like water drops from a faithful geyser,
    chips of light from a mirror ball, fireworks
    from a tomb, all containers blown
    open, spinning with birds feeding, nameless,
    spume-driven, in the troughs of waves
    —ahead of me, a dizzy moon.
    its path fizzing, the mermaid road rising.


    My life, a streaked peach,
    fell into a light blue haze of snakes
    and smoky journeys never ended
    or begun, collapsed into a pit of stone
    wrapped in a coat of snow—and when
    the snow melted and the stone cracked,
    there was the same bright blue sofa

    on the lawn under a banner in the sky,
    We Know Everything, But Not When
    It Will Happen. The sofa is still quite
    comfortable, though it has constricted
    into a loveseat, I mean a chair, I mean
    a stick, a twig, and the yards around me
    are dark, and oceans lap at my feet.

    • Reply Sharon February 2, 2023 at 10:04 pm

      Thank you! See you tomorrow.

      • Reply Hermine Meinhard February 3, 2023 at 3:46 pm

        The Weight
        by Linda Gregg

        Two horses were put together in the same paddock.
        Night and day. In the night and in the day
        wet from heat and the chill of the wind
        on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging
        and the taste of bay in the shadowed air.
        The dignity of being. They slept that way,
        knowing each other always.
        Withers quivering for a moment,
        fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail,
        width of back. The volume of them, and each other’s weight.
        Fences were nothing compared to that.
        People were nothing. They slept standing,
        their throats curved against the other’s rump.
        They breathed against each other,
        whinnied and stomped.
        There are things they did that I do not know.
        The privacy of them had a river in it.
        Had our universe in it. And the way
        its border looks back at us with its light.
        This was finally their freedom.
        The freedom an oak tree knows.
        That is built at night by stars.

        Have always loved this poem. Encountering it again recently I am even more moved by it. Her ability to allow me to experience the beauty of these two beings, animals, together …… in a visceral knowing…. is beyond words and for me the essence of poetry and of being alive.

        • Reply Sharon February 3, 2023 at 3:48 pm

          Thanks. See you in a few minutes.

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