Constantly Risking Absurdity

high wire artists
Here’s a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
Constantly Risking Absurdity
Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be
       For he’s the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap
      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)” from A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems. Copyright 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.




<a href=””>Constant</a&gt;
<a href="">Constant</a>


My Daughter in Winter Costume

girl in parka painting by Lizzie

painting by Elizabeth Desiree Torbet


Here is a wonderful villanelle from the Irish poet Mary O’Donoghue:


after John Storrs’ sculpture (1922)


She is sealed like a bomb in her anorak.

Her face is flushed fruit under the hood.

She’s already moving away. I want to call her back.


At nine in the morning the sky is blue-black.

I think of hard falls, split lips, her blood.

But she’s sealed like a bomb in her anorak,


and shouting to friends on the tarmac,

a yardful of children, a tide,a flood

already moving away. I want to call her back,


I’m faint, suddenly starved with the lack

of her,and determined that she should

know, all sealed like a bomb in her anorak.


Grip the wheel. Radio on.The yakety-yak

of today’s talking heads on How to Be Good.

The morning is moving away. I want to call her back.


This is what it’s like to be left slack,

the cord frayed like I knew it would.

She is sealed like a bomb in her anorak,

already moved away, and I can’t call her back.




© 2011, Mary O’Donoghue From: Shine On: Irish Writers for Shine Publisher: Dedalus Press, Dublin, 2011, 978-1-906614-47-8





<a href=””>Costume</a&gt;

such a curious creature

Master of Calamarca, Angel with ArquebusMaster of Calamarca, Angel with Arquebus


Here’s a poem by Emily Dickinson:


THE PAST is such a curious creature,

To look her in the face

A transport may reward us,

Or a disgrace.


Unarmed if any meet her,         5

I charge him, fly!

Her rusty ammunition

Might yet reply!



<a href=””>Creature</a&gt;

Weary eyes that blink

williamson-p06-07-150Alice diary pagepagefromAliceWilliamson’sdiary


Here is a poem I wrote fourteen years ago:

Stray page found in the bottom of the trunk


Brittle yellow paper

rattles in my hand.

Song about the roadway

tarnished by the land

where heat meets sand;

I cannot find the shaper.


Writing’s like a window

roiling with dull sheen.

Watching at the threshold,

child I might have been

bends her back to glean

footmarks from the shadow.


Woodworker and learner

scallop, shred and shrink

sawdust, resin, russet,

weary eyes that blink,

leading me to think

better of the sterner.


Stumbling on the shaper,

not the one I seek,

sharpens breath to shorter,

eyebrows rise to peak,

gulping as I speak

words from yellowed paper.




<a href=””>Blink</a&gt;

The Shock of Pain and Blood


I am a dog lover, but this really happened at the home of a friend who was dog-sitting.

It was so ludicrous, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry:


Dog Bite


I didn’t know the

tottering dachshund,

old and blind as he was,

would bite me. And not on my heel, but

on top!

He gnawed with his sharp canines

on that thin skin barely

covering the veins and tendons.

So few nerves there

that at first I thought

he was just sniffing me

in a calm speculative way.

Then the shock of pain and blood!

So sorry I wore loafers,

not walkers!

And right at April’s end,

when I yearned to crunch along

in the woods.

Now it commands my attention

with reproachful throbbing.






<a href=””>Shock</a&gt;

Agile as Truth


ship rack and lighthouse

Here’s a poem by Adrienne Rich:

For This


If I’ve reached for your lines ( I have)

like letters from the dead that stir the nerves

Dowsed you for a springhead

to water my thirst

Dug into my compost skeletons and petals

you surely meant to catch the light:


At work in my wormeaten wormwood-raftered

stateless underground

have I a plea?


If I’ve touched your finger

with a ravenous tongue

licked from your palm a rift of salt

If I’ve dreamt or thought you

a pack of blood   fresh-drawn

hanging darkred from a hook

higher than my heart

( you who understand transfusion)

where else should I appeal?


A pilot light lies low

while the gas jets sleep

( a cat getting toed from stove

Into nocturnal ice)

language uncommon and agile as truth

melts down the most intractable silence


A lighthouse keeper’s ethics:

you tend for all or none

For this you might set your furniture on fire

a this we have blundered over

as if the lamp could be shut off at will

Rescue denied for some


and still a lighthouse be.



<a href=””>Agile</a&gt;