(for the consideration of Mrs. Gaudion's Poetry and Narrative Class at Foxcroft Academy)...

Ode To Tomatoes 
by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

  (for the consideration of Mrs. Gaudion's Poetry and Narrative Class at Foxcroft Academy)...

 a lyric poem, typically addressed to a particular subject, with lines of varying lengths and complex rhythms, and expressive of exalted or enthusiastic emotion.

The following poem provides a fun first look at odes. It is written by Wes McNair, Maine's current  Poet Laureate, and has been featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac and published on the  www.poetryfoundation.org website. I first discovered it in my personal copy of Mr. McNair's book, The Ghosts of You and Me: Poems, which I highly recommend. In this poem, the subject is the comb-over hair style...

Hymn to the Comb-Over by WESLEY MCNAIR

How the thickest of them erupt just   
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff   
no wind can move them.   Let us praise them   
in all of their varieties, some skinny   
as the bands of headphones, some rising   
from a part that extends halfway around   
the head, others four or five strings   
stretched so taut the scalp resembles   
a musical instrument.   Let us praise the sprays   
that hold them, and the combs that coax   
such abundance to the front of the head   
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget   
the back.   And let us celebrate the combers,   
who address the old sorrow of time’s passing   
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness   
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful   
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,   
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all   
in subways, offices, and malls across America.

 On Richard Blanco's Inaugural Poem, “One Today” 

One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper--
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives--
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us--
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

     I've been sampling many blogs covering "One Today," and I'm bowled over by the number of writers who panned it outright (although some found some good things within it to focus on as well). I'm suddenly aware of what an overwhelming task it must have been, being asked (being honored) to provide some poetic words of insight that, once received, would at once, by the numbers, be pithed like a frog for dissection, get mounted on a slide, and jammed unceremoniously under the microscopic lenses of all the nation's critics, major religions, ethnic groups, political parties, media networks, sexual orientations, and what-have-you. How daunting is that? I wouldn't want an assignment like that. I wouldn't know where to begin.
     I would enjoy, however, having the opportunity to ask Mr. Blanco's harshest critics to submit drafts of what they would have written, having been similarly honored.
     But anyway, simply keeping within the character of my humble old high school English teacher self, I for one applaud the poem. I enjoyed the "pencil-yellow school buses" laden with their multi-colored cargo like some "fruit stands" with their "apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows," because aren't we all pretty much just various color fruits of life? And I like that reference to us as "rainbows" which, after all, are traditional symbols of Hope and Promise, which is also alluded to at the conclusion of the poem as "a constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it-- together." And in the third verse, I like the further imagery of all of us as the various pieces of glass in "stained glass windows" with our "one light breathing color into" them.
     Blanco's vantage point throughout the piece, for me personally, is like that of a window in a space station, passing not only over the United States, but orbiting once all the way around the earth, looking down upon people with no real boundaries between them, upon their "hello, shalom, buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos dias," and all the sounds of their industry ("honking cabs, buses launching...screeching subways..." sounding identical from that point in space.
     No poet on earth could write a poem that would please everybody, or even garner an approving majority perhaps, but what's wrong with a poem that attempts to re-focus  us (from all the divisiveness and all the mean-spirited violence we are often guilty of aiming at one another) upon Hope?
     I don't know why, but for some reason  that little song from South Pacific just came to my mind, "You've Got to be Taught"...

You've got to be taught

To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!



OCTOBER 5th, 1957

by tom lyford

In PJ’s we pad over the dewy grass in the
October-cool dusk and mount the old
’48 Plymouth, lying like a cold black boulder
under the studded nightvelvet sky
(me on the roof— lying on my back)

And we are early so it’s like the drive-in movie
almost dark enough for the horns to start honking…
only we’re not out here for a comedy or cowboy
flick but something dark, something sci-fi, something
Flash Gordonish--

because nothing save the Aurora Borealis,
the random meteor, or the occasional
prop-driven airliner’s blinking beacon
ever moves up there in my nightsky…
and so we fidget

waiting on that corner of heaven we’ve been
warned to watch, whispering in hushed reverence…
consulting the big radium-dial pocket watch…
when suddenly: there it is! there!
 right there! see it!? 

The first untwinkling ‘star’ ever
to swim right through the big dipper,
crawling its geometrically-precise straight line
and clocking a faster transit of the firmament
than a four-engine TWA…

stunned with awe, we quietly mouth the holy word
“Sputnik!”and perhaps feel the mild jolt as our life
and our world, mine and America’s, banks left
to dive down into still one more
alternate & parallel universe

where education will be
radically different now
and anything--
literally anything--
will be possible


                                (for Scotty)

You could usually be found in your
steel-toed engineer boots, fearing no
evil down in the valley of the shadows
beneath the marquee’s dying red neon

reflecting off the bumper-hubcap chrome
of someone’s low-slung Merc’ with the
windows cracked and The Crystals
belting out your personal soundtrack…

He’s a rebel and he’ll never be…any good…
You, manning the night, our graveyard-shift
sidewalk-superintendent, the  grim midnight-
crossing-guard… our small-town cross

between James Dean and Brando with
a little James Coburn sprinkled around
that toothpick or Camel poking out
the corner of your rugged mug

and ‘BORN TO LOSE’ tattooed blue 
like a bruise on the back of your wrist…
and we half-pint, shrimp-boat, wannabe
street-urchins hanging pilot-fish close

when the bullies were putting the pressure on…
because belying all that bad-asss badness
was a scarred, tarnished-white knight willing
(for some reason) to champion the justice of

us little guys and underdogs looking
up to you through your crummy self-esteem
and wishing that we too, like you,
could be born to lose


Like those embedded-in-amber
mosquitoes whose blood-bloated
bellies gave up the ingested ghosts
of DNA to populate 
Jurassic Park
with long-gone, born-again
Thunder Lizards…
my poems, like moths fluttering
in the widescreen’s glow, glue
themselves into the fly-paper of
the world wide web, their tiny little
torsos mummifying, crystallizing
into the jaundiced jewelry of time…
waiting for 
you to stumble on them
and, perhaps, reconstruct a Paleozoic
portrait, if you will, in the museum
of your heart… of your head… a
hologram of a 
soul that once
walked this earth


Tales of Trickery, (Early Morning, November 1st, 1959)
                          (the morning after Halloween)

Behold this carnage— the battle must have raged fierce,
the air thick with exploding water-balloonery and raw
launched-egg artillery (the storefronts and telephone poles
still bearing the tell-tale powder burns of dried splatters)
and pumpkins cannonballing out of the midnight sky to
pummel the pavement pulp-slick and slimey, littering
the streets with the shards of skulls eviscerated and oozing
their brains, that pithy orange, seedy syrup gore
congealing now, coagulating,

Look here: a vacant triangular eye socket, cock-eyed and
flickerless now, gaping blind up from from the asphalt…

And over here in the ditch: its leering, gap-toothed jawbone
now a shriveled rind, but 

Looming in the morning mist in the middle of Merrick Square,
like some Trojan horse left by the recently departed forces of
occupation, sits the trophy: the annual, uprooted outhouse
(a two-holer deluxe this time) ripped from its roots, liberated
from the tyranny of its native soil (the captured flag) flaunted
as a dire warning for those who, next year, might still dare
to withhold the precious spoils
demanded in the soap-scrawled
war-cry painted across every
store front window:

Trick or treat!



I classify the NOUNS in my arsenal
in ascending order:
blasting caps
det cord

and anti-tank mines

the matches, cigarette lighters
and detonators

just so much
fuse and firing wire

My poems aren’t about a daffodil or cloud
no, my poems aren’t pretty— they’re crude, they’re loud
I am the Ted Kaczynski of poetry...
gingerly shish-kebabing hair-trigger words
into these lethal combinations, these
weapons of mass description…

if I’m not meticulous I’ll blow my damn fingers off!

So before you read one of mine aloud
you better yell
three times!