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180 More
Extraordinary Poems for Every Day
Edited by Billy Collins

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Category: Poetry
Imprint: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: March 2005
Price: $15.95
Can. Price: $20.00
ISBN: 978-0-8129-7296-2 (0-8129-7296-1)
Pages: 400


First Hour
Sharon Olds

That hour, I was most myself. I had shrugged

my mother slowly off, I lay there

taking my first breaths, as if

the air of the room was blowing me

like a bubble. All I had to do

was go out along the line of my gaze and back,

out and back, on gravity’s silk, the

pressure of the air a caress, smelling on my

self her creamy blood. The air

was softly touching my skin and tongue,

entering me and drawing forth the little

sighs I did not know as mine.

I was not afraid. I lay in the quiet

and looked, and did the wordless thought,

my mind was getting its oxygen

direct, the rich mix by mouth.

I hated no one. I gazed and gazed,

and everything was interesting, I was

free, not yet in love, I did not

belong to anyone, I had drunk

no milk, yet—no one had

my heart. I was not very human. I did not

know there was anyone else. I lay

like a god, for an hour, then they came for me,

and took me to my mother.

The Alien
Greg Delanty

I’m back again scrutinising the Milky Way

of your ultrasound, scanning the dark

matter, the nothingness, that now the heads say

is chockablock with quarks & squarks,

gravitons & gravitini, photons & photinos. Our sprout,

who art there inside the spacecraft

of your ma, the time capsule of this printout,

hurling & whirling towards us, it’s all daft

on this earth. Our alien who art in the heavens,

our Martian, our little green man, we’re anxious

to make contact, to ask divers questions

about the heavendom you hail from, to discuss

the whole shebang of the beginning&end,

the pre-big-bang untime before you forget the why

and lie of thy first place. And, our friend,

to say Welcome, that we mean no harm, we’d die

for you even, that we pray you’re not here

to subdue us, that we’d put away

our ray guns, missiles, attitude and share

our world with you, little big head, if only you stay.

Waking with Russell
Don Paterson

Whatever the difference is, it all began

the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers

and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,

possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;

and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin

but his own smile, or one I’d rediscovered.

Dear son, I was mezzo del’ cammin

and the true path was as lost to me as ever

when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.

See how the true gift never leaves the giver:

returned and redelivered, it rolled on

until the smile poured through us like a river.

How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!

I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever.

The Floating Rib
Lucia Perillo

Because a woman had eaten something

when a man told her not to. Because the man

who told her not to had made her

from another man’s bones. That’s why

men badgered the heart-side of her chest,

knowing she could not give the bone back, knowing

she would always owe them that one bone.

And you could see how older girls who knew

their catechism armed themselves against it:

with the pike end of teasing combs

they scabbarded in pocketbooks that clashed

against the jumper’s nightwatch plaid.

In the girl’s bathroom, you watched them

wield the spike in dangerous proximity to their eyes,

shepherding the bangs through which they peered

like cheetahs in an upside-downward-growing grass.

Then they’d mouth the words to “Runaway”

while they ran white lipstick round their lips,

white to announce they had no blood

so any wound would leave no trace, as Eve’s

having nothing more to lose must have made

lll her fearless. What was weird was how soon

the ordinary days started running past them

like a river, how willingly they entered it

and how they rose up on the other side. Tamed,

or god no . . . your mother: ready to settle

with whoever found the bone under her blouse

and give it over, and make a life out of the getting


W. S. Merwin

And in the morning you are up again

with the way leading through you for a while

longer if the wind is motionless when

the cars reach where the asphalt ends a mile

or so below the main road and the wave

you rise into is different every time

and you are one with it until you have

made your way up to the top of your climb

and brightened in that moment of that day

and then you turn as when you rose before

in fire or wind from the ends of the earth

to pause here and you seem to drift away

on into nothing to lie down once more

until another breath brings you to birth