Thursday, September 16, 2021

Winter Song for One Who Suffers by Brenda Hillman

Winter Song for One Who Suffers

The stars stand up
behind the day. A known dove balances
on its claw
at the window. A cosmic incident
of darkness has begun
   & a mild excess of beauty
  will be offered to the dead,
 which they will eat. On a hill
the wise man serves the people,
your thought splits
in half when he speaks of the old
revolts, the return
of apocalypse, motive & advancement.
   A soul can crouch
  a long time while the heart
 expands to reach its edges.
What is missing past the glitter
of the harvest?
     Friend, you chose
to live. How? You did. So many
choices, not just two, encrypted
behind the mystery of the sun,
then the hurt was set aside,
 indeterminate chaos
called in by love.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bottleglass by Kaveh Akbar


go ahead tread on me
see if I care I am already
unhuggable as a cactus
and too big to fit on any
lap keep your excuses
short or better yet keep
them to yourself any
animal you live with will
eventually eat you or
at least want to even
birds especially birds
it’s not betrayal if they’re
hungry or very
bored I am hot as
bottleglass pulled from
a fire my liver can’t
handle Tylenol any fever
is like a needle pricking
through my pupils into
my brain I am boiling
down to broth you are
full of spermicide and
the guilt of the
conqueror tell me
what that feels like using
only verbs then carve
my initials into your
halo watch me
disappear in luxury
like a beautiful name-
less planet with three
moons and a dead sun

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Drinking by Gabriela Mistral


I remember people’s gestures,
They were gestures of giving me water.
In the Valley of Rio Blanco
Where the Aconcagua rises,
I went to drink, I leapt to drink
In the whip of a waterfall
That fell in a stiff mane
And broke white and rigid.
I glued my mouth to the foaming
And the blessed water burnt me,
And for three days my mouth was bleeding
From that drink of the Aconcagua.
In the country of Mitla,
A day of cicadas, of sun and of walking,
I bent to a pool and an Indian came
To hold me over the water.
And my head, like a fruit
Was between the palms of his hands.
I drank and what I was drinking
Was my face and his face together
And in a flash I knew
That my race was the flesh of Mitla.
On the Island of Puerto Rico
At the time of the blue-filled siesta,
My body at rest, the waves in a frenzy,
And the palms like a hundred mothers,
A little girl gracefully opened
A cocoanut close to my mouth
And I drank as a daughter,
Her mother’s milk, milk of the palmtrees.
And I have drunk no sweeter
With the soul nor with the body.
In the house of my childhood,
My mother brought me water.
Between one drink and another,
I looked at her over the jar.
My head I raised higher and higher
The jar sank lower and lower.
And still I keep the valley
I keep my thirst and her look.
This shall be eternity
For we are still as we were.
 I remember people’s gestures,
They were gestures of giving me water.
(translated by H.R. Hays)

Monday, September 13, 2021

To Himself by Mark Strand

To Himself

So you've come to me now without knowing why;
Nor why you sit in the ruby plush of an ugly chair, the sly
Revealing angle of light turning your hair a silver gray;
Nor why you have chosen this moment to set the writing of years
Against the writing of nothing; you who narrowed your eyes,
Peering into the polished air of the hallway mirror, and said
You were mine, all mine; who begged me to write, but always
Of course to you, without ever saying what it was for;
Who used to whisper in my ear only the things
You wanted to hear; who comes to me now and says
That it's late, that the trees are bending under the wind,
That night will fall; as if there were something
You wanted to know, but for years had forgotten to ask,
Something to do with sunlight slanting over a table
And chair, an arm rising, a face turning, and far
In the distance a car disappearing over the hill.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Past Suffers Too by Ben Purkert

The Past Suffers Too

The bumper sticker says Live In The Moment! on a Jeep
that cuts me off. I’m working to forget it, to let go
of everything but the wheel in my hands,
as a road connects two cities without forcing them
to touch. When I drive by something, does it sway
toward me or away? Does it slip into the past
or dance nervously in place? The past suffers
from anxiety too. It goes underground, emerging
once in a blue moon to hiss. I hear the grass never
saying a word. I hear it spreading its arms across
each grave & barely catch a name. My dying wish
is scattering now before every planet. I want places to
look forward to. Listen: the earth is a thin voice
in a headset. It’s whispering breathe... breathe...
but who believes in going back? 

A New Day Dawns by Nikky Finney

A New Day Dawns

On the occasion of the Confederate flag falling in South Carolina, July 10, 2015
It is the pearl-blue peep of day.
All night the palmetto sky
Was seized with the aurora
And alchemy of the remarkable.
A blazing canopy of newly minted
Light fluttered in while we slept.
We are not free to go on as if
Nothing happened yesterday.
Not free to cheer as if all our
Prayers have finally been answered
Today. We are free only to search
The yonder of each other’s faces,
As we pass by, tip our hat, hold a
Door ajar, asking silently,
Who are we now? Blood spilled
In battle is two-headed: horror &
Sweet revelation. Let us put the
Cannons of our eyes away forever.
Our one and only Civil War is done.
Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we,
The living, do not give our future
The same honor as the sacred dead,
Of then and now—we lose everything.
The gardenia air feels lighter on this
New day, guided now by iridescent
Fireflies, those atomlike creatures
Of our hot summer nights, now begging
Us to team up and search with them
For that which brightens every
Darkness. Soon, it will be just us
Again, alone, beneath the swirling
Indigo sky of South Carolina. Alone &
Working on the answer to our great
Day’s question: Who are we now?
What new human cosmos can be made
Of this tempest of tears, this upland
Of inconsolable jubilation? In all our
Lifetimes, finally, this towering
Undulating moment is here. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Two Drops by Zbigniew Herbert

Two Drops

          No time to grieve for roses when the forests are burning.
          -- Juliusz Slowacki
The forests were on fire—
they however
wreathed their necks with their hands
like bouquets of roses
People ran to the shelters—
he said his wife had hair
in whose depths one could hide
Covered by one blanket
they whispered shameless words
the litany of those who love
When it got very bad
they leapt into each other’s eyes
and shut them firmly
So firmly they did not feel the flames
when they came up to the eyelashes
To the end they were brave
To the end they were faithful
To the end they were similar
like two drops
stuck at the edge of a face
(translated by Peter Dale Scott)