Poem of the Week: “Blood” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Blood
BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

“A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

Poem of the Week: “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes” by Billy Collins

Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes
BY BILLY COLLINS

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer’s dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women’s undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

10 Great Quotations about Poetry for National Poetry Day

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. – Emily Dickinson

The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot. – Salvador Dali

A poem begins with a lump in the throat. – Robert Frost

It is a part of the poet’s work to show each man what he sees but does not know he sees. – Edith Sitwell

To find beauty in ugliness is the province of the poet. – Thomas Hardy

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There is no money in poetry, but then there is no poetry in money, either. – Robert Graves

A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms to be struck by lightning 5 or 6 times. –

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Book Sale Success

Last Thursday, the RCAH Center for Poetry hosted its annual book sale. We would like to say a very big “thank you” to all of the folks who stopped by and supported the Center. We were lucky enough to raise more than $1,400, which will go toward our programming. Your support is much-appreciated, and we hope to see you back at the sale next year!

Poem of the Week: “Messy Room” by Shel Silverstein

Messy Room
Shel Silverstein

Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
His underwear is hanging on the lamp.
His raincoat is there in the overstuffed chair,
And the chair is becoming quite mucky and damp.
His workbook is wedged in the window,
His sweater’s been thrown on the floor.
His scarf and one ski are beneath the TV,
And his pants have been carelessly hung on the door.
His books are all jammed in the closet,
His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.
Whosever room this is should be ashamed!
Donald or Robert or Willie or–
Huh? You say it’s mine? Oh, dear,
I knew it looked familiar!

Via Famous Poets and Poems

Bins of books!

Calling all bibliophiles! The day you’ve waited for is finally here! The annual Poetry Center book sale is happening tomorrow! We’ll be out on the grass near the corner of Farm Lane and North Shaw Lane on MSU’s campus from 9 am – 5 pm with bins of books for sale.  We’ll have poetry books, cookbooks, history books, novels, and everything in between – all for as little as $.50 per book! Hope to see you there!

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