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Best Famous Carolyn Kizer Poems

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by Carolyn Kizer |

Reunion

 For more than thirty years we hadn't met.
I remembered the bright query of your face,
That single-minded look,intense and stern,
Yet most important -how could I forget?-
Was what your taught me inadvertantly
(tutored by books and parents, even more
By my own awe at what was yet to learn):
The finest intellect can be a bore.

At this, perhaps our final interview,
Still luminous with your passion to instruct,
You speak to that recalcitrant pupil who
Inhaled the chalk-dust of your rhetoric.
I nod, I sip my wine, I praise your view,
Grateful, my dear, that I escaped from you.


by Carolyn Kizer |

Parents Pantoum

 for Maxine Kumin

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

They moan about their aging more than we do,
A somber group--why don't they brighten up?
Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
The beg us to be dignified like them

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up. 
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention
Then we won't try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish?

Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore,
We'd rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.


by Carolyn Kizer |

On a Line from Valéry (The Gulf War)

 The whole green sky is dying.The last tree flares
With a great burst of supernatural rose
Under a canopy of poisonous airs.

Could we imagine our return to prayers
To end in time before time's final throes,
The green sky dying as the last tree flares?

But we were young in judgement, old in years
Who could make peace; but it was war we chose,
To spread its canopy of poisoning airs.

Not all our children's pleas and women's fears
Could steer us from this hell.And now God knows
His whole green sky is dying as it flares.

Our crops of wheat have turned to fields of tares.
This dreadful century staggers to its close
And the sky dies for us, its poisoned heirs.

All rain was dust.Its granules were our tears.
Throats burst as universal winter rose
To kill the whole green sky, the last tree bare
Beneath its canopy of poisoned air.


by Carolyn Kizer |

On a Line From Valery (Gulf War)

 Tout le ciel vert se meurt
Le dernier arbre brûle.

The whole green sky is dying. The last tree flares
With a great burst of supernatural rose
Under a canopy of poisonous airs.

Could we imagine our return to prayers
To end in time before time's final throes,
The green sky dying as the last tree flares?

But we were young in judgment, gray in hairs
Who could make peace; but it was war we chose,
To spread its canopy of poisoning airs.

Not all our children's pleas and women's stares
Could steer us from this Hell. And now God knows
His whole green sky is dying as it flares.

Our crops of wheat have turned to fields of tares.
This dreadful century staggers to its close
And the sky dies for us, its poisoned heirs.

All rain was dust. Its granules were our cares.
Throats burst as everywhere winter arose
To dye the dead sky green. The last tree bears
Within its canopy ripe poisoned pears.


by Carolyn Kizer |

Mud Soup

 1.

Had the ham bone, had the lentils,
Got to meat store for the salt pork,
Got to grocery for the celery.
Had the onions, had the garlic,
Borrowed carrots from the neighbor.
Had the spices, had the parsley.
One big kettle I had not got;
Borrowed pot and lid from landlord.

2.

Dice the pork and chop the celery,
Chop the onions, chop the carrots,
Chop the tender index finger.
Put the kettle on the burner,
Drop the lentils into kettle:
Two quarts water, two cups lentils.
Afternoon is wearing on.

3. 

Sauté pork and add the veggies,
Add the garlic, cook ten minutes,
Add to lentils, add to ham bone;
Add the bayleaf, cloves in cheesecloth,
Add the cayenne! Got no cayenne!
Got paprika, salt and pepper.
Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer.
Did I say that this is summer?
Simmer, summer, summer, simmer.
Mop the floor and suck the finger.
Mop the brow with old potholder.

4. 

Time is up! Discard the cheesecloth.
Force the mixture thru the foodmill
(having first discarded ham bone).
Add the lean meat from the ham bone;
Reheat soup and chop the parsley.
Now that sweating night has fallen,
Try at last the finished product:

5.

Tastes like mud, the finished product.
Looks like mud, the finished product.
Consistency of mud the dinner.
(Was it lentils, Claiborne, me?)
Flush the dinner down disposall,
Say to hell with ham bone, lentils,
New York Times's recipe.
Purchase Campbell's. Just add water.
Concentrate on poetry:
By the shores of Gitche Gumee
You can bet the banks were muddy,
Not like Isle of Innisfree.


by Carolyn Kizer |

Fearful Women

 Arms and the girl I sing - O rare
arms that are braceleted and white and bare

arms that were lovely Helen's, in whose name
Greek slaughtered Trojan. Helen was to blame.

Scape-nanny call her; wars for turf
and profit don't sound glamorous enough.

Mythologize your women! None escape.
Europe was named from an act of bestial rape:

Eponymous girl on bull-back, he intent
on scattering sperm across a continent.

Old Zeus refused to take the rap.
It's not his name in big print on the map.

But let's go back to the beginning
when sinners didn't know that they were sinning.

He, one rib short: she lived to rue it
when Adam said to God, "She made me do it."

Eve learned that learning was a dangerous thing
for her: no end of trouble would it bring.

An educated woman is a danger.
Lock up your mate! Keep a submissive stranger

like Darby's Joan, content with church and Kinder,
not like that sainted Joan, burnt to a cinder.

Whether we wield a scepter or a mop
It's clear you fear that we may get on top.

And if we do -I say it without animus-
It's not from you we learned to be magnaminous.


by Carolyn Kizer |

Days of 1986

 He was believed by his peers to be an important poet,
But his erotic obsession, condemned and strictly forbidden,
Compromised his standing, and led to his ruin. 

Over sixty, and a father many times over,
The objects of his attention grew younger and younger:
He tried to corrupt the sons of his dearest friends;
He pressed on them drinks and drugs,
And of course he was caught and publicly shamed.
Was his death a suicide? No one is sure. 

But that’s not the whole story; it’s too sordid to tell.
Besides, the memory of his poems deserves better.
Though we were unable to look at them for a time
His poems survive his death.
There he appears as his finest self:
Attractive, scholarly, dedicated to love.

At last we can read him again, putting aside
The brute facts of his outer life,
And rejoice at the inner voice, so lofty and pure.


by Carolyn Kizer |

Cultural Evolution

 When from his cave, young Mao in his youthful mind
A work to renew old China first designed,
Then he alone interpreted the law,
and from tradtional fountains scorned to draw:
But when to examine every part he came,
Marx and Confucius turned out much the same.


by Carolyn Kizer |

American Beauty

 For Ann London 

As you described your mastectomy in calm detail
and bared your chest so I might see
the puckered scar,
"They took a hatchet to your breast!" I said. "What an
Amazon you are."

When we were girls we climbed Mt. Tamalpais
chewing bay leaves we had plucked
along the way;
we got high all right, from animal pleasure in each other,
shouting to the sky.

On your houseboat we tried to ignore the impossible guy
you had married to enrage your family,
a typical ploy.
We were great fools let loose in the No Name bar
on Sausalito's bay.

In San Francisco we'd perch on a waterfront pier
chewing sourdough and cheese, swilling champagne,
kicking our heels;
crooning lewd songs, hooting like seagulls,
we bayed with the seals.

Then you married someone in Mexico,
broke up in two weeks, didn't bother to divorce,
claimed it didn't count.
You dumped number three, fled to Albany
to become a pedant.

Averse to domesticity, you read for your Ph.D.
Your four-year-old looked like a miniature
John Lennon.
You fed him peanut butter from your jar and raised him
on Beowulf and Grendal.

Much later in New York we reunited;
in an elevator at Sak's a woman asked for
your autograph.
You glowed like a star, like Anouk Aimee
at forty, close enough.

Your pedantry found its place in the Women's Movement.
You rose fast, seen suddenly as the morning star;
wrote the ERA
found the right man at last, a sensitive artist;
flying too high

not to crash. When the cancer caught you
you went on talk shows to say you had no fear
or faith.
In Baltimore we joked on your bed as you turned into
a witty wraith.

When you died I cleaned out your bureau drawers:
your usual disorder; an assortment of gorgeous wigs
and prosthetic breasts
tossed in garbage bags, to spare your gentle spouse.
Then the bequests

you had made to every friend you had!
For each of us a necklace or a ring.
A snapshot for me:
We two, barefoot in chiffon, laughing amid blossoms
your last wedding day.


by Carolyn Kizer |

A Song for Muriel

 No-one explains me because
There is nothing to explain.
It's all right here
Very clear.
O for my reputations sake
To be difficult and opaque!

No-one explains me because
Though myopic, I see plain.
I just put it down
With a leer and a frown...
Why does it make you sweat?
Is this the thanks I get?

No-one explains me because
There are tears in my bawdy song.
Once I am dead
Something will be said.
How nice I won't be here
To see how they get it wrong.