Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Injunction by Frank Bidart


As if the names we use to name the uses of buildings
x-ray our souls, war without end:
Palace. Prison. Temple. School.
Market. Theatre. Brothel. Bank.
War without end. Because to name is to possess
the dreams of strangers, the temple
is offended by, demands the abolition of brothel, now theatre, now
school, the school despises temple, palace, market, bank; the bank by

refusing to name depositors welcomes all, though in rage prisoners
each night gnaw to dust another stone piling under the palace.

War without end. Therefore time past time.

Rip through the fabric. Nail it. Not
to the wall. Rip through

the wall. Outside

time. Nail it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

from 13th Balloon by Mark Bibbins

from 13th Balloon

A few months after you died
I came home on a black and freezing night
to find a small cardboard box
on the steps outside my building

I opened the lid and inside
was a single newborn animal
hairless pink and clean
a rat a guinea pig I couldn’t tell

Was it moving        I don’t remember now
why can’t I remember that now
It can’t have been moving
it couldn’t have
been alive
I considered my cat        asleep
in my apartment        would he
kill this creature if it lived
Did I have any milk
and how would I get any milk
anyway inside this tiny thing
that surely could not be alive

What kind of person
might have come and left
a baby possibly dead
animal there in a box
on my stoop        what kind

If this was a test I failed it

I carried the box
three long blocks
to the river and threw it in

I have never so much
as in the moment the box went under
the surface of the water
stabbing and stabbing and stabbing itself
   with the moon’s million obsidian knives
wished that I were dead

If death is a test I fail

If death is a test I pass

Monday, July 6, 2020

Vespers by C. Dale Young


        Clarendon, Jamaica

Because it was a pilgrimage,
we left during the fifth hour of daylight
like the children in our textbooks

marching off to fight with devils.
Not yet women but no longer girls, my sisters and I
marched behind our mother to the river

where a secret society of women holding white sheets
waded into reflections of rose-apple blossoms,
into the icy, black morning water.

We watched our mother drowning sheets,
then men’s shirts, her back bending, straightening,
her arms lifting the white cloth into the air,

a benediction, her arms as fluid as water,
as fluid as a Chancery f written in fresh ink.
I would pull the white shirts from the water

—embarrassed at touching my father, my uncles—
and drape them across rocks to bleach in the sunlight.
Walking home, arms filled with laundry

sweet with the smell of the sun now dissolving in the hills,
I would remember my mother in the dark water.
I would pray motherhood would never find me there.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Soft Money by Rae Armantrout

Soft Money

They’re sexy
because they’re needy,
which degrades them.

They’re sexy because
they don’t need you.

They’re sexy because they pretend
not to need you,

but they’re lying,
which degrades them.

They’re beneath you
and it’s hot.

They’re across the border,
rhymes with dancer—

they don’t need
to understand.

They’re content to be
(not mean),

which degrades them
and is sweet.

They want to be
the thing-in-itself

and the thing-for-you—

Miss Thing—

but can’t.

They want to be you,
but can’t,

which is so hot.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Vultures by Chinua Achebe


In the greyness 
and drizzle of one despondent 
dawn unstirred by harbingers 
of sunbreak a vulture 
perching high on broken 
bones of a dead tree 
nestled close to his 
mate his smooth 
bashed-in head, a pebble 
on a stem rooted in 
a dump of gross 
feathers, inclined affectionately 
to hers. Yesterday they picked 
the eyes of a swollen 
corpse in a water-logged 
trench and ate the 
things in its bowel. Full 
gorged they chose their roost 
keeping the hollowed remnant 
in easy range of cold 
telescopic eyes... 

indeed how love in other 
ways so particular 
will pick a corner 
in that charnel-house 
tidy it and coil up there, perhaps 
even fall asleep - her face 
turned to the wall! 

...Thus the Commandant at Belsen 
Camp going home for 
the day with fumes of 
human roast clinging 
rebelliously to his hairy 
nostrils will stop 
at the wayside sweet-shop 
and pick up a chocolate 
for his tender offspring 
waiting at home for Daddy's 

Praise bounteous 
providence if you will 
that grants even an ogre 
a tiny glow-worm 
tenderness encapsulated 
in icy caverns of a cruel 
heart or else despair 
for in the very germ 
of that kindred love is 
lodged the perpetuity 
of evil. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Real Work by Wendell Berry

The Real Work 

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

After the Apocalypse by Ama Codjoe

After the Apocalypse

After the apocalypse, I yearned to be reckless. To smash a glass
brought first to my lips. To privilege lust over
tomorrow. To walk naked down the middle of a two-lane
road. But, too late, without my bidding, life cracked open,
rushed, openmouthed, like a panting dog whose name
I did not call—my lips shut like a purse. The last man
I kissed was different than the last man I fucked.
We were so desperate then, the two of us, undone
by longing, drawing night from the cracks
inside us, drawing the night out, as long as we could,
until dawn broke like a beat egg and our heartbeats
quieted in private fatigue. I’d be lying if I said I don’t recall
his name. The end of the world has ended, and desire is still
all I crave. Oh, to be a stone, sexless and impenetrable.
Over half of me is water, a river spilling into restless limbs,
the rest of me is a scalding heat like the asphalt under my feet.

After the apocalypse, I mothered my mother, became
grandmother to myself, distant and tender, temples turning
gray. The whole world cascaded past my shoulders, like the hair
self-hatred taught me to crave—though all my Barbie dolls
were black. And the Cabbage Patch Kid my grandmother
placed under the artificial Christmas tree, sprinkled with tinsel,
in Memphis, Tennessee, the city where my mother waited
for her first pair of glasses in the Colored Only waiting room.
She said the world changed from black-and-white to Technicolor
that day. My mother watches TV as I roll her hair. She sits
between my legs. I’ve never birthed a child. I have fondled the crown
of a lover’s head, my thighs framing his dark brown eyes.
I entered the world excised from my mother’s womb. Her scar
is a mark the color of time. I am my mother’s weeping
wound. On my last birthday, I cried into bathwater.
I hid my tears from my mother because that’s what mothers do.

After the apocalypse, I had the urge to dance on the president’s
grave. The dispossessed threw me a belated quinceaƱera. My godmother
wore a necklace of the dictator’s teeth. She sliced an upside-down cake,
licked her forefinger, and said, “You have mastered sadness, querida,
may your rage be sticky and sweet.” My father offered his hand—this time
I took it. We glided like ballroom dancers across the red dirt floor.
He wore a grave expression. I embraced him tightly
so as to cloak my face. Instead of a toast, he handed me a handkerchief,
wet with tears. My father circled the guests silently, dabbing gently
each of their cheeks. This too was a dance unfolding.
I folded the handkerchief into a fist and raised my fist like
a glass of champagne. The pain in my father’s eyes sparkled
like the sequins on my tattered gown. If it hadn’t been so ugly
it would’ve been beautiful. The party ended just as the world had:
with the sound of rain beating against the earth and each of us
on our hands and knees peering into pools of mud and thirst.

After the apocalypse, time turned like a mood ring. My mood
changed like a thunderstruck sky. The sky changed
like a breast, engorged, staining the front of a white silk blouse.
I got laid off. I went thirteen days without wearing a bra. I changed
my mind about the fiction of money. Money changed hands.
I washed my hands religiously. Religion changed into sunlight—
something allowed to touch my face. My face changed into
my mother’s. No, into a mask of my mother’s face. Traces
of heartache changed into a pain in my right hip. The stock market
dipped. The S & P fell freely. I did not fall to my knees
promising to change my life. The price of paper towels changed
and the price of toilet paper and the price of white bread and milk.
Whiteness did not change. Some things stayed the same. We named
the moon for its changes, but it remained the same. Gravity
pulled at my organs like the moon’s tug makes a king tide.
America’s king would inevitably change and inevitably stay the same.

After the laughter subsided the crying kept after we held hands
and screamed and screamed and squeezed and screamed after
regret and shame and a single bush filled with speckled thrushes
singing redwing bluebird wood thrush on the wood of a branch
and forest thrush in the branches of a forest open pine
and after your mother refused to haunt your dreams after
you placed her in a wooden coffin and you sang like a blue bird
breast trembling beak open like a mother’s beak foraging feeding
offspring after laying on a clutch of blue eggs and after spring
after pining for spring ignorant of your grief and unraveling
with or without your blessing cool days and rain after icicles
crying and after you kept from crying and after you cried
there was no one left to protect after you blessed the demon
possessing you and after it left you were even more alone
a grandala calling and calling and after calling after your mother
a hole closed and a hole opened after that after all of that.

There is a scar near my right eye no lover ever noticed
or kissed, a faint mark: split skin sewn.
And so, and now, there was never a before. Never
a time when the wind did not smell of dust
or storm or brine or blood. Never an hour when I entered
a field of bluebells without trampling at least one flower.
And so, and then, on the day I was born, a stampede
of horses filled my chest. Astronomers can only guess
how the universe formed. The planet is dying:
the horses, the mothers, the farmers, the bees. I am
the ground, its many grasses and wild clover.
My teeth grow yellow, ache, decay. I wash a plate,
polishing the moon’s face—both will outlast my brutal
hands. And so, in the minutes of after, the moon drips
on a silver rack and the plate floats, cracked with age,
in outer space … a stray soapsud sparkles then bursts.