PoemsDuring our more than fifteen years,
we have posted hundreds of poems at ralphmag.org.
These are our favorites from the very early days of the magazine.
[The titles provide links
if you wish to read
the entire poem.]
January 1940"Coleridge was a dope.
Southwell died on a rope.
Byron had a round white foot.
Smart and Cowper were put
Away. Lawrence was a fidget.
Keats was a midget."
The Lady Missionary"I shall arrive in Africa
in gauze cloth
and smelling of honey.
I shall have sightings
of large hills and a far star
which I shall name.
I shall come and go as a man
and bag a tiger
on a mid-week afternoon.
I shall plant
a dahlia (or other foreign
flower) in tinderbox scrub..."
The Battle at Little Bull Run"My family eats love for dessert
Topped with nutmeats and cherries.
When asked, they smile out of the past
And crush the small rebellions we bring
From school: crayon drawings of skulls,
Paper dolls with scrofula, dead pups."
Credo"I believe in Ulysses' dog
and in Alice's cat
smiling in Wonderland
In Robinson Crusoe's parrot
In the mice that pulled
In Berylfire, Roland's horse
and in the bees that build their hive in the heart of Martín Tinajero."
Tradition"My mother says women were made to bleed
and the whole thing takes twenty minutes.
She says afterwards they'll wrap me up like a butterfly
for forty nights and I'll drink only camel's milk.
My mother says tomorrow
I'll be a little bride hands red with henna.
I'll be shining in white and get to wear as much gold
as I want."
litany"Tom, can we make a baby together? I want to be a big pregnant woman with a
loved face and give you a squalling red daughter.
no, but i will come inside you and you will be my daughter"
Death Is Sitting at the Foot of My Bed"This wretched Lady Death has got the hots for me
and wants to suck me drier than a fig plucked off a tree.
I grab a big stick and try to whack her on the head.
Now she wants to lie down for a minute by my side
just to sleep a little, I need not be afraid.
From respect, I don't suggest her reputation's not so good."
The Vivisection Mambo"She and I were once together in this very pyramid.
I was willing to die for the two-eyed moonstone.
The taste of her webbing, tying me to her;
There was some thing important going on (I swear)
Between her and me and the gods."
Walt Whitman in the Supermarket"I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?"
Loos"When they took him away, I thought
I heard him wail; now he's down there
Making caissons out of poppies,
The boy we carved out of heaven's breath,
A boy with the powder of love.
Now just a breath of lead, smell of steel."
The Flies"O, Miss Fly,
they tell me that you could
bring terrible harm
but I don't believe them,
and wherever I wander
I'll run into you
bothering me with your
Love & the Flowers"Love and the flowers
And age drawing on like a shawl.
It seems to me the days are coming shorter
And the sun takes such a crooked path
Down to the crooked sea."
"In a Harlem cabaret
Six long-headed jazzers play.
A dancing girl whose eyes are bold
Lifts high a dress of silken gold.
Oh, singing tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!"
A Sonnet to Helen"How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face..."
Warts and Family Photographs"It has been thirty years and I still dream
of a jar with lid perpetually turning,
the sad eye of the toad, its screeches
stifled like someone screaming through a pillow,
its hand pressed between glass and skin
pulling the lip into a grotesque smile."
On My First SonFarewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;
My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy:
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
O could I lose all father now! for why
Will man lament the state he should envy
To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
And, if no other misery, yet age?
Rest in soft peace, and asked, say, "Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry."
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.--- Ben Jonson
(1573 - 1637)