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Poets who have contributed to this fund-raising drive

Billy Collins

Dated 20 Aug. ’02 on Library of Congress stationery —
Poetry and Literature center
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry

Twisting Time

I am twisting again, but not like I did last summer
or the summer before
or the summer before that.

I am twisting more slowly now
because it is cold
and I have grown heavy
and there is hardly any wind.

 

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Philip Levine

Asked to send a poem “he feels passionately about” Philip Levine did not
select one of his own but instead handwrote a piece by the English-born Georgian poet
Ralph Hodgson (b. 1871 Yorkshire, d. 1962, Ohio, USA). Because Hodgson was not much
affected by trends in Modernism and did not seek publicity, he is not well-known to
contemporary readers. Many of his writings — such as his poem to the Gypsy girl, and the
following — challenge us to see with more clarity the people and creatures on the margins
of our world. On high-quality textured white stationery.


The Bells of Heaven by Ralph Hodgson

‘Twould ring the bells of Heaven,
The wildest peal for years,
If Parson lost his senses
And people came to theirs,
And he and they together
Knelt down with angry prayers
For tamed and shabby tigers
And dancing dogs and bears,
And wretched, blind pit ponies,
And little hunted hares.

 

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Sharon Olds

On White Paper
Last two lines and signature attached on bottom

If, Someday

If, someday, we had to look back
& tell the best hours of our lives,
this was one — moving my brow
& nose around, softly, in your armpit,
as if you were running a furred palm
over my face. The skin of my body
touching your body felt actively joyful,
sated, yet sipping & eating. As you fell
asleep, your penis slowly caressed me,
as if you were licking me goodbye, & I lay
slack, weightless, my body floated on
fathomless happiness. When someone knocked
at the back door, you didn’t wake up,
& I didn’t wake you, & when they knocked again
I did not rouse you, I felt sure that nothing
was wrong — it was just a someone, calling,
outside heaven, & the noise of outsidedness laid a
seal on our insideness. There was just this bed,
just these two, & passing this way
& that, from angle to angle of the room —
wall, ceiling, floor, bedpost — the
curved sound-waves of their recent cries,
by now a billion, bright webs,
look back & see this!

 

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Robert Pinsky

Blue-black ink on tan paper

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.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.


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W. S. Merwin

Black ink on white paper
Small handwriting error on next to last line, corrected by poet


To The Words

When it happens you are not there

oh you beyond numbers
beyond recollection
passed on from breath to breath
given again
from day to day from age
to age
charged with knowledge
knowing nothing

indifferent elders
indispensable and sleepless

keepers of our names
before ever we came
to be called by them

you that were
formed to begin with
you that were cried out
you that were spoken
to begin with
to say what could not be said

ancient precious
and helpless ones

Say it

 

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Carol Muske-Dukes

Written with a glass stylus dipped in purple ink, on the back of a facsimile of an early
exploratory version of the book cover for “Sparrows,” to be published this Spring.
Very delicate and attractive. Small (1 cm.) tear in far lower left hand corner.
Slight imprint of paper clip in upper left hand corner.

Love Song

Love comes hungry to anyone’s hand.
I found the newborn sparrow next to
the tumbled nest on the grass. Bravely

opening its beak. Cat circled, squirrels.
I tried to set the nest right, but the wild

birds had fled. The knot of pin feathers

sat in my hand and spoke. Just because
I’ve raised it by touch doesn’t mean it
follows. All day it pecks at the tin image of

a faceless bird. It refuses to fly,
though I’ve opened the door. What
sends us to each other? He and I

had a blue landscape, a village street,
some poems, bread on a plate. Love
was a camera in a doorway, love was

a script, a tin bird. Love was faceless
even when we’d memorized each other’s
lines. Love was hungry, Love was faceless,

the sparrow sings, famished, in my hand.

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Edward Hirsch

The Poet at Seven

He could be any seven-year old on the lawn,
holding a baseball in his hand, ready to throw.
He has the middle-class innocence of an American

except for his blunt features and dark skin
that mark him as a Palestinian or a Jew,
his forehead furrowed like a question,

his concentration camp eyes, heroes, grim
and too intense. He has the typical
blood of the exile, the refugee, the victim.

Look at him looking at the catcher for a sign
so violent and competitive, so unexceptional,
except for an ancestral lamentation,

a shadowy, grief-stricken need for freedom
laboring to express itself through him.

 

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Wanda Coleman

On the flipside of the heavy cardstock cover for her multi-prize winning
“Mercurochrome,” with many doodles, lively marginalia and
spur-of-the-moment notes. Circled $$$ appears in red ink, rest in black.

Incomplete Acts

hiding the face after it makes
front page news

straightening out a bent disposition

Killer shadows arrived w/nasty gats
chasing down a rat on the eve of

……………………………………..righteousnes

 

Wise & ultimate peace

squeezing the 300 lb lady into
a size ten life

rising out of the dungheap

 ……………………….. …………..unstained


he looks the part
trying to make him play it

finding a cure for October

Wanda C.

(Marginalia includes:
Calif. Crab has no flavor…jagged wakings paper work up the
ying yang…gotta find a new publisher…have very mixed feelings about this ruff summer.)

 

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Tony Hoagland

Heavy Navaho tan colored stock, natural hand-cut appearance, one dramatic raw edge

Still Life

The French have it wrong, said Larry
The self isn’t an historical fiction
……………………………….or a “cultural construct,”
………………………………. ….or a linguistic hallucination.
The self is a creature
and it lives in a burrow
…………under the hillside of history

a modest animal …..llike a badger or a vole
rarely seen…………….resourceful
neither beautiful…….nor ugly….but merely alive —

And he smiled briefly, like a sad child
who is secretly a little proud of being sad

but then again, also furthermore sad,
………………..about not being able
to prevent himself from being proud —

He smiled briefly —
and, making sure there was a wall behind him,
he tipped back, carefully, in his chair.

………………………………..– Tony Hoagland

…………..

 

Diane Wakoski

On semi-glossy almond/vanilla cardstock. 8-1/2 x 11”
with background sketch of coffee cup and saucer.

Opening the Sunrise

She feels it shimmering up
like Sappho through
her feet. She opens more space
into her flannel gown,
billowing out the sapphire night
and she opens her hands to the gust/
steaming cappuccino ascending.
Now she’s
wide open, a Blue Mountain gash,
a gateway of split,
morning’s beam, a
portal beyond the
ocean / she rises, rises,
above boulder sleep
and soars, flies,
unfolds into the perfect Adonic
of morning’s “cafe au lait.”

Diane Wakoski from
THE BUTCHER’S APRON

B.H. (Pete) Fairchild

Two poems: Black ink on good quality semi-gloss white typing paper

Watching the Local Semi-Pro Team with My Father

It’s all in the feet, watch the catcher’s feet
he says below the deepening blue of twilight baseball
under lights. Shattered bulbs leave a blind spot
in left field where three-fingered Ken Marler spits
Red Man as he waits, and across the pitcher’s mound
a thin shadow gives the ball a flutter. On the steal
the catcher with stupid feet takes one step too many
too late. Later, when the batter pulls one out to left,
we think of how the beauty of the game improves with
distance. The white ball arcs against a blue-black sky,
and if it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Now Marler runs
to darkness, leaps to take it, moves it to his bad hand,
drops his glove, and with his glove-hand throws home.
Seen at this distance, it’s one clean move performed
with an imagined ease. We see ourselves in the solitude
of left field: the crowd blurs, the coach waves quietly
like a departing relative. My father stands beside me,
and while the sky flattens into black, we fall to silence,
this game bearing all we have of subtlety or grace.

– B.H. Fairchild

 

Describing the Back of My Hand

First the four small bumps, knuckles
they’re called, and a fifth one on the thumb
an appendage along with four fingers splayed
outward and ending in a fine hardness
that shines sometimes under lamp light,
or in movies, catching an odd glow.
Worst are the four veins running to the wrist
as if each knuckle had its own throat,
the ones you notice in times of boredom
or wonder, sitting at the concert perhaps,
your arm lying seductively alongside, fat
of the palm pressed against the cool edge
of the armrest, fingers dropping, curled
slightly, Adam reaching out to God.
And then you notice the big blue one closets in,
bulging like death beneath the pale stretched skin,
and you see the subtle, slow throbbing of the fingers.

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Lawrence Raab

The Bad Muse

Calm down. No one’s listening. Of course
you have the right to make mistakes.
Say anything you want, any dumb thing
that occurs to you. On the other hand,
it really does look bad, doesn’t it?

And if anyone were foolish enough to print it
scorn and ridicule would be heaped upon you,
upon your family as well.
Think about them, if not yourself.
Someone in New Hampshire or California

is writing the important poem about history
at this very moment. Most of it
is done already. And this person
has had a life of great interest,
full of struggle and incident, whereas yours

is the same old story a thousand people
have had the good sense to keep to themselves.
Who wants to hear about what it was like
to turn forty, or the strange thing
your dog did last week? So relax.

Think of how good it will feel
to climb into bed and turn off the light.
And tomorrow is Sunday. You can read the papers,
go for a walk, cook outside. Friends will drop by.
Why not invite them all to stay for dinner?

And when the conversation gets really lively
and they’re nodding in agreement
with everything you say, maybe someone
will ask you to tell that story — you know,
the one about the dog and the squirrel.

 

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David St. John

On pale purple construction paper with blue ink. David St. John’s 8 year old daughter, Vivienne,
also contributed a hand written poem on a small red piece of construction paper.

Casino

There is no casino like the heart’s.

Those lovers and gamblers walk the park,
Through oaks or pines, along the lawns of felt
Where some croupier rakes his perfect stick.
She’s lost her touch. He owes an uptown shark.

There is no casino like the heart’s.

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