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Robert Pinsky

Samurai Song

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

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First Things to Hand

In the skull kept on the desk.
In the spider-pod in the dust.

Or nowhere. In milkmaids, in loaves,
Or nowhere. And if Socrates leaves

His house in the morning,
When he returns in the evening

He will find Socrates waiting
On the doorstep. Buddha the stick

You use to clear the path,
And Buddha the dog-doo you flick

Away with it, nowhere or in each
Several thing you touch:

The dollar bill, the button
That works the television.

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Paschal

Easter was the old North
Goddess of the dawn.
She rises daily in the East
And yearly in spring for the great

Paschal candle of the sun.
Her name lingers like a spot
Of gravy in the figured vestment
Of the language of the Britains.

Her totem the randy bunny.
Our very Thursdays and Wednesdays
Are stained by syllables of thunder
And Woden's frenzy.

O my fellow-patriots loyal to this
Our modern world of high heels,
Vaccination, brain surgery—
May they pass over us, the old

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To Television

Not a "window on the world"
But as we call you,
A box a tube

Terrarium of dreams and wonders.
Coffer of shades, ordained
Cotillion of phosphors
Or liquid crystal

Homey miracle, tub
Of acquiescence, vein of defiance.
Your patron in the pantheon would be Hermes

Raster dance,
Quick one, little thief, escort
Of the dying and comfort of the sick,

In a blue glow my father and little sister sat
Snuggled in one chair watching you
Their wife and mother was sick in the head

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Doctor Frolic

Felicity the healer isn’t young
And you don’t look him up unless you need him.
Clown’s eyes, Pope’s nose, a mouth for dirty stories,
He made his bundle in the Great Depression

And now, a jovial immigrant success
In baggy pinstripes, he winks and wheezes gossip,
Village stories that could lift your hair
Or lance a boil; the small town dirt, the dope,

The fishy deals and incestuous combinations,
The husband and the wife of his wife’s brother,
The hospital contract, the certificate ...
A realist and hardy omnivore,

He strolls the jetties when the month is right
With a knife and lemons in his pocket, after
Live mussels from among the smelly rocks,
Preventative of impotence and goitre.

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Stupid Meditation on Peace

“He does not come to coo.”
—Gerard Manley Hopkins


Insomniac monkey-mind ponders the Dove,
Symbol not only of Peace but sexual
Love, the couple nestled and brooding.

After coupling, the human animal needs
The woman safe for nine months and more.
But the man after his turbulent minute or two

Is expendable. Usefully rash, reckless
For defense, in his void of redundancy
Willing to death and destruction.

Monkey-mind envies the male Dove
Who equally with the female secretes
Pigeon milk for the young from his throat.

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Poem about People

The jaunty crop-haired graying
Women in grocery stores,
Their clothes boyish and neat,
New mittens or clean sneakers,

Clean hands, hips not bad still,
Buying ice cream, steaks, soda,
Fresh melons and soap—or the big
Balding young men in work shoes

And green work pants, beer belly
And white T-shirt, the porky walk
Back to the truck, polite; possible
To feel briefly like Jesus,

A gust of diffuse tenderness
Crossing the dark spaces
To where the dry self burrows
Or nests, something that stirs,

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The Night Game

Some of us believe
We would have conceived romantic
Love out of our own passions
With no precedents,
Without songs and poetry--
Or have invented poetry and music
As a comb of cells for the honey.

Shaped by ignorance,
A succession of new worlds,
Congruities improvised by
Immigrants or children.

I once thought most people were Italian,
Jewish or Colored.
To be white and called
Something like Ed Ford
Seemed aristocratic,
A rare distinction.

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Glory

Pindar, poet of the victories, fitted names
And legends into verses for the chorus to sing:
Names recalled now only in the poems of Pindar:

O nearly unpronounceable immortals,
In the dash, Oionos was champion:
Oionos, Likmynios's son, who came from Midea.
In wrestling, Echemos won—the name
Of his home city, Tegea, proclaimed to the crowds.
Doryklos of Tiryns won the prize in boxing,
And the record for a four-horse team was set
By Samos from Mantinea, Halirothios's son.

And Pindar, poet of the Olympian and Isthmian
And Pythian games, wrote also of the boundless
And forgetful savannas of time. What is someone?
The chorus sing in a victory ode—What is a nobody?

Creatures of a day, they chant in answer, Creatures
Of a day. So where is the godgiven glory Pindar says

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Ginza Samba

A monosyllabic European called Sax
Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah, a kind of twisted
Brazen clarinet, but with its column of vibrating
Air shaped not in a cylinder but in a cone
Widening ever outward and bawaah spouting
Infinitely upward through an upturned
Swollen golden bell rimmed
Like a gloxinia flowering
In Sax's Belgian imagination

And in the unfathomable matrix
Of mothers and fathers as a genius graven
Humming into the cells of the body
Or cupped in the resonating grail
Of memory changed and exchanged
As in the trading of brasses,
Pearls and ivory, calicos and slaves,
Laborers and girls, two

Cousins in a royal family

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