Twenty Great Poems
During our (almost) twenty years on-line,
we have posted hundreds of poems at RALPH.
From these 600 or so,
we have chosen a dozen and a half of our favorites,
which should give you a taste of our taste in this
lost but lovely art of rhyming,
rhythm, end-stopped lines, mystery.
[The titles provide links
if you wish to read
the entire poem.]

The Anarchist Guidebook
Pete Winslow
After you pay your taxes, buy all your licenses,
submit to the draft and spend 40 hours a week at the
office, you've still got maybe half an hour a day for
anarchy. Some of the things you can do are
not read the newspaper
not buy any advertised product
play the accordion badly on street corners
write a subversive children's book
eat something inedible like treebark erasers or dynamite
go into a supermarket with various obscure items and place them on the shelves
paint meat different colors
organize protest marches at classic music stations to demand top 40 tunes
and enlist support for all candidates who campaign in
Uncle Sam costumes.
After you have more experience with anarchy you can improvise.

Signs You Are Ovulating
Christine Hamm
Every night, gods break into your bedroom.
You push away the swan, tie his neck into a knot.
You hide under the bed to get away
from the black bull, who gores
your hello kitty pillow.

Finally, you soak your underwear
in Raid to ward off
the stubborn stream of gold light
that pours in your window
like insistent neon.

In the morning you wake up
to the sound of the possible people
talking softly inside you.
You turn up your radio
to drown out the noise.

When I Die
Carol Chou
Dress in black for a month.
Dress in black on my birthday every year.
Bring me flowers to make up for
the roses you didn't get me on my Sweet Sixteen.

Say a prayer for me.
Bend down and kiss my cold cheek.
That is what kissing me on
a February morning would have felt like.

Give my mother a hug.
Don't let any of our friends date my sister.
Teach my brother how to play ball.
Whatever you do, don't talk to my dad.

Keep all the bad love poems
I wrote for you.
Use them to woo your future wife.
Name your daughter after me.

Star Wars
Eugenijus Alisanka
summer's end at eight it's getting dark already
dogs communicate by telephone barks
at night the connection is better distant neighbors
bark to each other about women and bones about drunken misha
staggering along garden borders
omnitel gives discounts at full moon
it really is cheaper out in the country I roll a cigarette
and sit on the threshold
father churned butter today in a mason jar
polja brought fatback
also for dinner I ate cucumbers tomatoes
and red peppers with onions from the garden

Five Ways to Kill a Man
André Breton
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this
properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.

Where I Live
Günter Eich
When I opened the window
fishes swam into the room,
herrings. A school of them
must just have been passing.
I saw some playing among the pear trees as well
There were more of them
in the woods,
over the conifer plantations and gravel-pits.

They are a nuisance. But even more annoying
are the sailors
(some high-ranking ones among them too, helmsmen, captains),
who keep coming up to the open window
and asking for a light for their beastly tobacco.

I don't think I can stay here

Vietnam Scrapbook
Jeffrey Harrison
Midway through fourth grade, early 1968,
Mrs. Hackemeyer said it was time
we learned about the war in Vietnam,
where, she said, "American boys
are giving their lives to fight communism."
We were American boys, or half of us were,
and we already knew communism was bad,
how it spread like a rash across the map
that pulled down like an illustrated window shade.

The paper maps that Mrs. Hackemeyer passed out
were scented with her perfume and showed a country
shaped vaguely like a sea horse, its slender waist
adorned with a slim, candy-striped belt
we labeled DMZ. We added stars and dots
and printed in Saigon, Hanoi, Khe Sanh,
the Gulf of Tonkin, the Mekong River, Hue ---
names so strange they seemed to come
from an Asian version of The Hobbit...

A Cuchifrito Love Affair
Miguel Piñero
la ruca
juanita rosita esposita
they called her mexicana rose
con piel de canela
pelo darker than bustelo café
eyes big like rellenos
color of a ripe avocado
her lips tasted like seasoned mangos
and her body was sweet as coconut milk
this menudo of beauty
made my taco nights
burn like jalapeños
sí señor ...
my heart was a tortilla
then one riceless beanless night
after a heated chilly pepper tequila fight
she left
left me like a burnt pork chop
for a chitlin' hamhock buckwheat eatin' man
who wore a watermelon wallet &
a collard green conversation disturbing my macho machete pride
so that la mancha de plátano
reminded me that I was a weak mondongo

the boys i mean are not refined
e. e. cummings
the boys i mean are not refined
they cannot chat of that and this
they do not give a fart for art
they kill like you would take a piss

they speak whatever's on their mind
they do whatever's in their pants
the boys i mean are not refined
they shake the mountains when they dance

Brooklyn College Brain
Allen Ginsberg
Hello Professor Ginsberg have some coffee,
have some students, have some office hours
Tuesdays & Thursdays, have a couple subway tokens
in advance, have a box in the English Department,
have a look at Miss Sylvia Blitzer behind the typewriter
Have some poems er maybe they're not so bad have a
good time workshopping Bodhicitta in the Bird Room.

The Lady Missionary
Gail Dendy
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

and wait for burst skies
to lather
petals from its thigh.

I shall awake
in blue days
unlaced by hornbills

and sleep
safe and naked
under solid slabs of sky.

Ode to My Socks
Pablo Neruda
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish
made of wool,
two long sharks
of ultramarine blue
with a tress of gold
two gigantic blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this manner
They were
so beautiful
that for the first time
my feet seemed to me
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
of that embroidered
those luminous

I resisted
the acute temptation
to keep them
as schoolboys
or the erudite
sacred documents,
I resisted the furious impulse
to put them
in a cage
of gold
and to feed them
every day
bird seed
and the pulp of rosey melon.

A Few Words on the Soul
Wislawa Szymborska
It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off duty.

We give each other drill bits
for Christmas. We don't really like
each other, but a tool is always
appreciated. A pack of angels
from the main office came down ---
wanted to see how things were working
out. How we were getting along.
They ignored Edmond and his
fancy talk about astronomy, but they
fluffed their wings over my new drillbits.
"Atta boy," they said. "Nice tool." So we
showed them what we'd been making.
Carol brought out her toothpick; Sy,
his business card holder. The angels
nodded to each other
making marks in things they called "books."

Andrea Cohen
We had to go back
to the beginning
to find a reason
why the marriage
never took, and
there it was, rooted
in the garden where
we mouthed our vows
beneath a prop plane
rented by old flames.
The plane circled noisily
above, our exes
yelling: Don't, and
Do me instead,
a ruckus that meant
we never really heard
the justice of the peace
or what we promised.
It turns out my mate was saying: I'll love you
until intermission.

His Father Rebukes Him Again
And Also Pleads A Little
Amos Oz
Listen carefully. This is your father speaking. A simple man,
a rather grey man, and so on and so forth, but still your father. The only one
you have, and that's something your irony can't change.
That cheap woman you're with may let off
fireworks in bed, I'm not an expert in such matters
and I'm sorry to mention it, but fireworks
go out and time is drying up and the summer is over and you are
not back. The summer is over the autumn is gone and what about you,
where are you? Shrouded in fog in limbo in the arms
of a whore.

English Con Salsa
Gina Valdés
Welcome to ESL 100, English Surely Latinized,
inglés con chile y cilantro, English as American
as Benito Juárez. Welcome, muchachos from Xochicalco,
learn the language of dólares and dolores, of kings and queens,
of Donald Duck and Batman. Holy Toluca!
In four months you'll be speaking like George Washington,
in four weeks you can ask. More coffee? in two months
you can say. May I take your order? In one year you
can ask for a raise, cool as the Tuxpan river.

Welcome, muchachas from Teocaltiche, in this class
we speak English refrito, English con sal y limón,
English thick as mango juice, English poured from
a clay jug, English tuned like a requinto from Uruapan,
English lighted by Oaxacan dawns, English spiked
with mezcal from Mitla, English with a red cactus
flower blooming in its heart.

Women in Business
Eleanor Lerman
her ex-boyfriend has palmed a key and trashed her apartment.
Wrecked the stereo, punched the iMac, looted all the coordinates
from Ikea, and peed in her dresser drawers. Her cat is hiding in
the splinters and will not come when called. What's wrong with her,
she asks, that she thought the boyfriend could be a husband? Or
rather, she says, I guess I should be asking, what's wrong with men?
Ah well. Broaching that subject calls for at least three more drinks
Since we both have brothers that we hold in high esteem, we agree
that we cannot condemn the gender as a whole.

David Romtvedt
The country's full of flies. I hang a bag of pesticide
from a tree so that the cow can walk back and forth and rub.

There is a glacier in the mountains above town.
fall and tumble, but every year the ice recedes.

Some laugh to see slugs copulate, hanging by threads from trees.
Others say this is not so much funny as perverse.

The honeybee's enemies nestle in her hair. Hungry,
they tickle her mouth. She feeds them sweet nectar.

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