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Wednesday, July 18, 2007 08:50 am

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

Untitled Document deathwatchpoem #3
okay guys here’s what I want
when I’m comatose keep playing
all the bach mozart handel you want
plus any standard violin concertos
maybe that really nice bit from faure’s
requiem and I’d especially like —
if anything registers — donald swann
singing I sit beside the fire and in
western lands and the road goes ever
on and on and bilbo’s last song at the
grey havens please nobody hang over me
reading the bible I’ll take tennyson’s
crossing the bar grampa recited it
near his own death and if you must pray
let elbereth top the list I’ll leave
a couple paragraphs you can read from
leguin’s farthest shore and if I take
overlong getting to that shore someone
hold a pillow on my face just
don’t get caught

© Jacqueline Jackson 2007

I’m especially attracted to poems that describe places I might not otherwise visit, in the manner of good travel writing. I’m a dedicated stay-at-home and much prefer to read something fascinating about a place than visit it myself. Here the Hawaii poet, Joseph Stanton, describes a tree that few of us have seen but all of us have eaten from.
Banana Trees
They are tall herbs, really, not trees, though they can shoot up thirty feet if all goes well for them. Cut in cross
section they look like gigantic onions, multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts. Their leaves are made to be broken by the wind,
if wind there be, but the crosswise tears they are built to expect do them no harm. Around the steady staff of the leafstalk
the broken fronds flap in the breeze like brief forgotten flags, but these tattered, green, photosynthetic machines
know how to grasp with their broken fingers the gold coins of light that give open air its shine. In hot, dry weather the fingers
fold down to touch on each side —
a kind of prayer to clasp what damp they can against the too much light.
Poem copyright © 2006 by Joseph Stanton. Reprinted from A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O’ahu (Time Being Books, 2006) with permission of the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2006 by The Poetry Foundation. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Ted Kooser served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. For more information, go to www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.
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