Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Hunger by Ama Codjoe

When I rose into the cradle
of my mother’s mind, she was but
a girl, fighting her sisters
over a flimsy doll. It’s easy
to forget how noiseless I could be
spying from behind my mother’s eyes
as her mother, bulging with a baby,
a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed
the doorway with a moon. We all
fell silent. My mother soothed the torn
rag against her chest and caressed
its stringy hair. Even before the divergence
of girl from woman, woman from mother,
I was there: quiet as a vein, quick
as hot, brimming tears. In the decades
before my birthday, years before
my mother’s first blood, I was already
prized. Hers was a hunger
that mattered, though sometimes
she forgot and I dreamed the dream
of orange trees then startled awake
days or hours later. I could’ve been
almost anyone. Before I was a daughter,
I was a son, honeycomb clenching
the O of my mouth. I was a mother—
my own—nursing a beginning.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Boat Merchant’s Wife by Khaled Mattawa

The Boat Merchant’s Wife


He started out making feluccas;
an Egyptian taught him how.
Then he opened a shop by the beach,

sold ice cream, parasols and chairs.
He asked for my hand when I was
in teacher college, first year.

Time passes like the Ghibli here.
I was 7 months with my third baby
when someone sought him

for a Zodiac. He traveled all the way
to Guangzhou, brought back a dozen,
has been selling them ever since.

One night I asked how strong
they were, how many they carry.
“It’s all in the booklet,” he said,

“no reason for what keeps happening
to them.” He sipped from a glass
of bokha and explained how

from this same jetty, long before
the Arabs and Vandals, even before
the Romans and their famous theater,

boats filled with people and goods
and sailed off. A day or a week later,
the sea sends back the drowned.

His long-lashed eyes closed when
he spoke, his face unchanged by the years.
His fingers moved so carefully

putting out his cigarette. He saw me
looking, nodded, then pulled me toward
his manhood to help him sleep.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Streets in Shanghai by Tomas Tranströmer

Streets in Shanghai


The white butterfly in the park is being read by many.
I love that cabbage-moth as if it were a fluttering corner of truth itself!

At dawn the running crowds set our quiet planet in motion.
Then the park fills with people. To each one, eight faces polished like jade, for all
       situations, to avoid making mistakes.
To each one, there's also the invisible face reflecting "something you don't talk about."
Something that appears in tired moments and is as rank as a gulp of viper schnapps              
       with its long scaly aftertaste.

The carp in the pond move continuously, swimming while they sleep, setting an
   example for the faithful: always in motion.          


It's midday. Laundry flutters in the gray sea-wind high over the cyclists
who arrive in dense schools. Notice the labrinths on each side!

I'm surrounded by written characters that I can't interpret, I'm illiterate through and
But I've paid what I owe and have receipts for everything.
I've accumulated so many illegible receipts.
I'm an old tree with withered leaves that hang on and can't fall to the ground.

And a gust from the sea gets all these receipts rustling.


At dawn the trampling hordes set our quiet planet in motion.
We're all aboard the street, and it's as crammed as the deck of a ferry.

Where are we headed? Are there enough teacups? We should consider ourselves lucky
       to have made it aboard this street!
It's a thousand years before the birth of claustrophobia.

Hovering behind each of us who walks here is a cross that wants to catch up with us,
        pass us, unite with us.
Something that wants to sneak up on us from behind, put its hands over our eyes and
        whisper "Guess who!"

We look almost happy out in the sun, while we bleed to death from wounds we don't
        know about.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

[The famous poets came for us they came on us or some of us] by Diane Seuss

[The famous poets came for us they came on us or some of us]
The famous poets came for us they came on us or some of us
at least on some of us they did not come their poems were beautiful
or not but either way we learned to call them beautiful they came
like honeybees to hyacinths to some of us they came in some of us
the ones they called unreadable but fuckable or readable and fuckable
others were unfuckable the flip the fat the fierce the frayed the flawed
the frail the flunky the funny-looking radical unshaved the frumps
the flabs the poets came for us their genius sprayed on us they preyed
on us they said they’d pray for us like honeybees they dumped their load
of gold on us like god they shot their wad on us they called us sweeter
than their wives with softer skin they called their wives by telephone
their hands over our mouths to muffle us they shuffled us like decks
of playing cards and settled into hotel beds their socks and underwear
and undershirts cast upon the shore and then we’d stumble out the door

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Forgotten Dialect of the Hear by Jack Gilbert

The Forgotten Dialect of the Hear

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
Get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.