Friday, October 28, 2022

X by Jean Valentine


I have decorated this banner to honor my brother. Our parents did not want his name used publicly. —from an unnamed child's banner in the AIDS Memorial Quilt
The boatpond, broken off, looks back at the sky.
I remember looking at you, X, this way,
taking in your red hair, your eyes' light, and I miss you
so. I know,
you are you, and real, standing there in the doorway,
whether dead or whether living, real.  —Then Y
said, "Who will remember me three years after I die?
What is there for my eye
to read then?"
The lamb should not have given
his wool.
He was so small. At the end, X, you were so small.
Playing with a stone
on your bedspread at the edge of the ocean.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Jim Limber the Adopted Mulatto Son of Jefferson Davis Explains His Place in the Family by Shane McCrae

Jim Limber the Adopted Mulatto Son of Jefferson Davis Explains His Place in the Family

Dead Joseph died of falling off the porch
On the third floor and smacking his head hard
On the walk he was     as big as me     but he
Was five and I was seven so he wasn’t
As big as me inside     I didn’t see
It but I heard it and some screaming     but it
Wasn’t Joe     screaming but it was his nurse
Screaming and wailing he was surely dead
When Joe dead     Joseph hit the walk     it was quiet
Wasn’t but me and Joe’s nurse heard you might
Have heard     a gnat land on a tear     it was nothing
It sounded like a soldier scuffing
His boot     or like the handyman     with a soft last
Hammer tap tapping     a joint into place 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Kite for Michael and Christopher by Seamus Heaney

A Kite for Michael and Christopher

All through that Sunday afternoon
A kite flew above Sunday,
a tightened drumhead, an armful of blow chaff.
I’d seen it grey and slippy in the making,
I’d tapped it when it dried out white and stiff,
I’d tied the bows of the newspaper
along its six-foot tail.
But now it was far up like a small black lark
and now it dragged as if the bellied string
were a wet rope hauled upon
to life a shoal.
My friend says that the human soul
is about the weight of a snipe
yet the soul at anchor there,
the string that sags and ascends,
weigh like a furrow assumed into the heavens.
Before the kite plunges down into the wood
and this line goes useless
take in your two hands, boys, and feel
the strumming, rooted, long-tailed pull of grief.
You were born fit for it.
Stand here in front of me
and take the strain.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Telemachus’ Detachment by Louise Glück

Telemachus’ Detachment

When I was a child looking
at my parents’ lives, you know
what I thought? I thought
heartbreaking. Now I think
heartbreaking, but also
insane. Also
very funny.

The Leaving by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

The Leaving

My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond's cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper's stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was--I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water--full of fish and eyes.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

A Name by Ada Limón

A Name

When Eve walked among
the animals and named them—
nightingale, redshouldered hawk,
fiddler crab, fallow deer—
I wonder if she ever wanted
them to speak back, looked into
their wide wonderful eyes and
whispered, Name me, name me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Lipstick, 1935 by James Merrill

Lipstick, 1935

At Aunt Pearl’s kiss the pointed head
Extruded glistening pale red
From the jet sheath where it was housed
Looked like our Labrador, aroused.