Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Marsyas, After by Monica Youn

Marsyas, After

Dust loves me now, along with
leaflets, plastic bags, anything
unattached, anything looking for
somewhere to stop, something
to emblazon. Too painful
to brush them off, the day’s
adhesions, too much
a reënactment. I float in my tub
of blood-warm water; element
of indecision, if only
it could be my habitat,
if only the sawtoothed air
didn’t insist on its own
uninterrupted necessity.
I hate it, but, lacking skin, I’ve lost
my capacity for scorn: that
was my failing—not excess
of pride, but that stooping
to pick up their accoutrements,
as if emulation could engender
equality. I stain everything
I touch, it all stains me;
my raw surface is an unlidded eye,
each stimulus its own white-
hot knife, but why would I
submit to be resheathed?
To lessen pain? What used
to distinguish me is already
defeated, limp trophy
flag of conquest; now I could be
like them if I chose.
But the acidulated
rain imposes a least
common denominator
democracy, it scours away
the pigments they used
to humanize their marmoreal self-
regard, their eyes gone dull
as the calluses I would rather
suffer forever than become.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Ode with Interruptions by Rick Barot

Ode with Interruptions

Someone is in the kitchen washing the dishes.
Someone is in the living room watching the news.
Someone in a bedroom is holding a used stamp
with tweezers and adding it to his collection.
Someone is scolding a dog, barking now for
decades, a different dog for each of the decades.
Someone is reading the paper and listening to
a baseball game on the radio at the same time — 
At the base of the altar, you drop some coins
into a wooden box and the lights reveal the vast,
worn painting in front of you. The holy subject
is illuminated for a few minutes before it is dim
again. There are churches all over Italy where
you can do this. The smell of incense, stone — 
Someone is taking the ashes out of the small
cave of the fireplace, though this might have been
a hundred years ago, when the house was new
and we didn’t live in it. Someone is writing
a letter on thin blue paper. Someone is putting
down the needle onto a spinning record, just so.
On the couch, someone is sleeping. Upstairs,
someone is looking into the bathroom mirror — 
While we were waiting for her surgery to finish,
I walked around the hospital and came across
a waiting room that had an enormous aquarium.
The black fish with red stripes, the yellow fish
with blue stripes, the triangle fish, the cylinder
fish, the little orange schools and the cellophane
glints of their quick turns in the box of water,
among arrangements of coral, the city of bones — 
Someone is walking down the creaking staircase
in the dark, a hand sliding on the rail. Someone
is on the telephone, which means nobody else
can use it for another hour. Someone in his room
is doing homework, me or someone almost like
me, twenty, fifty years ago. Someone is reading
in her room. Someone is talking to the gray wall.
Someone is talking to the gray wall. In summer,
on a hot afternoon, someone peels at a corner
of wallpaper and sees more wallpaper beneath — 
I used to think that to write poems, to make art,
meant trying to transcend the prosaic elements
of the self, to arrive at some essential plane, where
poems were supposed to succeed. I was wrong.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Driving to Cádiz by Taneum Bambrick

Driving to Cádiz

A kind of bird like swan but more triangular
dives and lifts behind the knives of a tractor—
five paper airplanes poking at turned dirt.
Sometimes, he wears the condom
for hours after he falls asleep. I feel carried.
His body becomes the way I think.
Not being hungry but wanting
to halve something.
I’ve never finished with a man
without needing to repeat, in my head,
that I want him inside me.
We pass by piles of salt, orange cattle.
He asks me to rate the day.
We both know there’s nothing emptier
than recognition in a new landscape.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Lost Son by Theodore Roethke

The Lost Son

1. The Flight
At Woodlawn I Heard the dead cry:
I was lulled by the slamming of iron,
A slow drip over stones,
Toads brooding wells.
All the leaves stuck out their tongues;
I shook the softening chalk of my bones,
Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, soft-sigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.
Fished in an old wound,
The soft pond of repose;
Nothing nibbled my line,
Not even the minnows came.
Sat in an empty house
Watching shadows crawl,
There was one fly.
Voice, come out of the silence.
Say something.
Appear in the form of a spider
Or a moth beating the curtain.
Tell me:
Which is the way I take;
Out of what door do I go, Where and to whom?
                    Dark hollows said, lee to the wind,
                    The moon said, back of an eel,
                    The salt said, look by the sea,
                    Your tears are not enough praise,
                    You will find no comfort here,
                    In the kingdom of bang and blab.
                    Running lightly over spongy ground,
                    Past the pasture of flat stones,
                    The three elms,
                    The sheep strewn on a field,
                    Over a rickety bridge
                    Toward the quick-water, wrinkling and rippling.
                    Hunting along the river,
                    Down among the rubbish, the bug-riddled foliage,
                    By the muddy pond-edge, by the bog-holes,
                    By the shrunken lake, hunting, in the heat of summer.
The shape of a rat?
                                        It’s bigger than that.
                                        It’s less than a leg
                                        And more than a nose,
                                        Just under the water
                                        It usually goes.
                    Is it soft like a mouse?
                    Can it wrinkle his nose?
                    Could it come in the house
                    On the tips of its toes?
                                        Take the skin of a cat
                                        And the back of an eel,
                                        Then roll them in grease,–
                                        That’s the way it would feel.
                                        It’s sleek as an otter
                                        With wide webby toes
                                        Just under the water
                                        It usually goes.
2. The Pit
Where do the roots go?
                    Look down under the leaves.
Who put the moss there?
                    These stones have been here too long.
Who stunned the dirt into noise?
                    Ask the mole, he knows.
I feel the slime of a wet nest.
                    Beware Mother Mildew.
Nibble again, fish nerves.
3. The Gibber
At the wood’s mouth,
By the cave’s door,
I listened to something
I had heard before.
Dogs of the groin
Barked and howled,
The sun was against me,
The moon would not have me.
The weeds whined,
The snakes cried
The cows and briars
Said to me: Die.
What a small song. What slow clouds. What dark water.
Hath the rain a father? All the caves are ice. Only the snow’s here.
I’m cold. I’m cold all over. Rub me in father and mother.
Fear was my father, Father Fear.
His look drained the stones.
                    What gliding shape
                    Beckoning through halls,
                    Stood poised on the stair,
                    Fell dreamily down?
                    From the mouths of jugs
                    Perched on many shelves,
                    I saw substance flowing
                    That cold morning.
                    Like a slither of eels
                    That watery cheek
                    As my own tongue kissed
                    My lips awake.
Is that the storm’s heart? The ground is unstilling itself.
My veins are running nowhere. Do the bones cast out their fire?
Is the seed leaving the old bed? These buds are live as birds.
Where, where are the tears of the world?
Let the kisses resound, flat like a butcher’s palm;
Let the gestures freeze; our doom is already decided.
All the windows are burning! What’s left of my life?
I want the old rage, the lash of primordial milk!
Goodbye, goodbye, old stones, the time-order is going,
I have married my hands to perpetual agitation,
I run, I run to the whistle of money.
                    Money money money
                    Water water water
                    How cool the grass is.
                    Has the bird left?
                    The stalk still sways.
                    Has the worm a shadow?
                    What do the clouds say?
                    These sweeps of light undo me.
                    Look, look, the ditch is running white!
                    I’ve more veins than a tree!
                    Kiss me, ashes, I’m falling through a dark swirl.
4. The Return
                    The way to the boiler was dark,
                    Dark all the way,
                    Over slippery cinders
                    Through the long greenhouse.
                    The roses kept breathing in the dark.
                    They had many mouths to breathe with.
                    My knees made little winds underneath
                    Where the weeds slept.
                    There was always a single light
                    Swinging by the fire-pit,
                    Where the fireman pulled out roses,
                    The big roses, the big bloody clinkers.
                    Once I stayed all night.
                    The light in the morning came slowly over the white
                    There were many kinds of cool
                    Then came steam.
Scurry of warm over small plants.
Ordnung! ordnung!
Papa is coming!
                    A fine haze moved off the leaves;
                    Frost melted on far panes;
                    The rose, the chrysanthemum turned toward the light.
                    Even the hushed forms, the bent yellowy weeds
                    Moved in a slow up-sway.
5. “It was beginning winter”
It was beginning winter,
An in-between time,
The landscape still partly brown:
The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind,
Above the blue snow.
It was beginning winter,
The light moved slowly over the frozen field,
Over the dry seed-crowns,
The beautiful surviving bones
Swinging in the wind.
Light traveled over the wide field;
The weeds stopped swinging.
The mind moved, not alone,
Through the clear air, in the silence.
                    Was it light?
                    Was it light within?
                    Was it light within light?
                    Stillness becoming alive,
                    Yet still?
A lively understandable spirit
Once entertained you.
It will come again.
Be still.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Monet’s “Waterlilies” by Robert Hayden

Monet’s “Waterlilies”

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
            I come again to see
the serene great picture that I love.
Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
            The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
            that was not, was, forever is.
O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
            each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

#36 by Vera Pavlova


To converse with the greats 
by trying their blindfolds on; 
to correspond with books 
by rewriting them; 
to edit holy edicts, 
and at the midnight hour 
to talk with the clock by tapping a wall 
in the solitary confinement of the universe.

(Translated by Steven Seymour) 

poem where no one is deported by José Olivarez

poem where no one is deported

now i like to imagine la migra running
into the sock factory where my mom
& her friends worked. it was all women
who worked there. women who braided
each other’s hair during breaks.
women who wore rosaries, & never 
had a hair out of place. women who were ready
for cameras or for God, who ended all their sentences
with si dios quiere. as in: the day before 
the immigration raid when the rumor
of a raid was passed around like bread
& the women made plans, si dios quiere.
so when the immigration officers arrived
they found boxes of socks & all the women absent.
safe at home. those officers thought
no one was working. they were wrong.
the women would say it was god working.
& it was god, but the god 
my mom taught us to fear
was vengeful. he might have wet his thumb
& wiped la migra out of this world like a smudge
on a mirror. this god was the god that woke me up
at 7am every day for school to let me know
there was food in the fridge for me & my brothers.
i never asked my mom where the food came from,
but she told me anyway: gracias a dios.
gracias a dios del chisme, who heard all la migra’s plans
& whispered them into the right ears
to keep our families safe.