Monday, November 30, 2015

Sometimes My Feet Go Numb by Wayne Corbitt

Sometimes My Feet Go Numb
Sometimes my feet go numb
I sleep a lot
Most of my old fag buddies are dead
My doctor treated my lover too
I feel guilty about being alive.
Sometimes my feet go numb
In people of color the skin is ashy dry
Coffee and tea don’t go well with my medication
I remember sexual freedom.
Sometimes my feet go numb
It takes one or two days to get a prescription filled
   at San Francisco General
I heard two guys making a speed deal at the food bank once
My thumbnails are blue from AZT
Bruises that don’t heal quickly worry me.
Sometimes my feet go numb
My sweat smells medicinal, my urine stinks
Television commercials make me cry
The news makes me angry
I’m tired all the time.
Sometimes my feet go numb
I take an anti-depressant and other drugs
   to scare my voices away
I hate pity
The very idea of wearing diapers is humiliating
I wonder if the acupuncture is doing any good.
Sometimes my feet go numb
And I don’t notice until I try to walk
Then I stumble
Shake them awake
   and move on. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Snow on the Desert by Agha Shahid Ali

Snow on the Desert

“Each ray of sunshine is eight minutes old,”
Serge told me in New York one December
night. “So when one looks at the sky, one sees

the past?” “Yes, Yes,” he said, “especially
on a clear day.” On January 19,
1987, as I very

early in the morning drove my sister
to Tucson International, suddenly
on Alvernon and 22nd Street

the sliding doors of the fog were opened,
and the snow, which had fallen all night, now
sun-dazzled, blinded us, the earth whitened

out, as if by cocaine, the desert’s plants,
its mineral-hard colors extinguished,
wine frozen in the veins of the cactus.

The Connoisseuse of Slugs by Sharon Olds

The Connoisseuse of Slugs

When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the 
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt, 
but I was not interested in that. What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the ends,
delicate and intimate. Years later,
when I first saw a naked man,
I gasped with pleasure to see that quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow 
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney

Personal Helicon

As a child, they could not keep me from wells 
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses. 
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells 
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss. 

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top. 
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket 
Plummeted down at the end of a rope. 
So deep you saw no reflection in it. 

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch 
Fructified like any aquarium. 
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch 
A white face hovered over the bottom. 

Others had echoes, gave back your own call 
With a clean new music in it. And one 
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall 
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection. 

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime, 
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring 
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme 
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing. 

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Tradition

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Zebra by C. K. Williams


Kids once carried tin soldiers in their pockets as charms   
against being afraid, but how trust soldiers these days   
not to load up, aim, blast the pants off your legs?

I have a key-chain zebra I bought at the Thanksgiving fair.
How do I know she won't kick, or bite at my crotch?
Because she's been murdered, machine-gunned: she's dead.

Also, she's a she: even so crudely carved, you can tell   
by the sway of her belly a foal's inside her.
Even murdered mothers don't hurt people, do they?   

And how know she's murdered? Isn't everything murdered?
Some dictator's thugs, some rebels, some poachers;
some drought, world-drought, world-rot, pollution, extinction.

Everything's murdered, but still, not good, a dead thing   
in with your ID and change. I fling her away, but the death   
of her clings, the death of her death, her murder, her slaughter.

The best part of Thanksgiving Day, though—the parade!
Mickey MouseSnoopyKermit the Frog, enormous as clouds!
And the marching bands, majorettes, anthems and drums!

When the great bass stomped its galloping boom out
to the crowd, my heart swelled with valor and pride.
I remembered when we saluted, when we took off our hat.

Poetry by Marianne Moore


I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
  contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Five Men by Zbigniew Herbert

Five Men


They take them out in the morning
to the stone courtyard
and put them against the wall

five men
two of them very young
the others middle-aged

nothing more
can be said about them


when the platoon
level their guns
everything suddenly appears
in the garish light
of obviousness

the yellow wall
the cold blue
the black wire on the wall
instead of a horizon

that is the moment
when the five senses rebel
they would gladly escape
like rats from a sinking ship

before the bullet reaches its destination
the eye will perceive the flight of the projectile
the ear record a steely rustle
the nostrils will be filled with biting smoke
a petal of blood will brush the palate
the touch will shrink and then slacken
now they lie on the ground
covered up to their eyes with shadow
the platoon walks away
their buttons straps
and steel helmets
are more alive
than those lying beside the wall


I did not learn this today
I knew it before yesterday

so why have I been writing
unimportant poems on flowers

what did the five talk of
the night before the execution

of prophetic dreams
of an escapade in a brothel
of automobile parts
of a sea voyage
of how when he had spades
he ought not to have opened
of how vodka is best
after wine you get a headache
of girls
of fruit
of life

thus one can use in poetry
names of Greek shepherds
one can attempt to catch the color of morning sky
write of love
and also
once again
in dead earnest
offer to the betrayed world
a rose

(Translated by Alissa Valles)

On the Sadness of Wedding Dresses by James Galvin

On the Sadness of Wedding Dresses

On starless, windless nights like this
I imagine
I can hear the wedding dresses
Weeping in their closets,
Luminescent with hopeless longing,
Like hollow angels.
They know they will never be worn again.
Who wants them now,
After their one heroic day in the limelight?
Yet they glow with desire
In the darkness of closets.
A few lucky wedding dresses
Get worn by daughters—just once more,
Then back to the closet.
Most turn yellow over time,
Yellow from praying
For the moths to come
And carry them into the sky.
Where is your mother’s wedding dress,
What closet?
Where is your grandmother’s wedding dress?
What, gone?
Eventually they all disappear,
Who knows where.
Imagine a dump with a wedding dress on it.
I saw one wedding dress, hopeful at Goodwill.
But what sad story brought it there,
And what sad story will take it away?
Somewhere a closet is waiting for it.
The luckiest wedding dresses
Are those of wives
Betrayed by their husbands
A week after the wedding.
They are flung outside the double-wide, 
Or the condo in Telluride,
And doused with gasoline.
They ride the candolescent flames,
Just smoke now,
Into a sky full of congratulations.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anecdote of the Jar by Wallace Stevens

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee, 
And round it was, upon a hill. 
It made the slovenly wilderness 
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it, 
And sprawled around, no longer wild. 
The jar was round upon the ground 
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where. 
The jar was gray and bare. 
It did not give of bird or bush, 
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Friday, November 20, 2015

what they did yesterday afternoon by Warsan Shire

what they did yesterday afternoon

they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz

When My Brother Was An Aztec

he lived in our basement and sacrificed my parents 
every morning. It was awful. Unforgivable. But they kept coming 
back for more. They loved him, was all they could say.

It started with him stumbling along la Avenida de los Muertos,
my parents walking behind like effigies in a procession
he might burn to the ground at any moment. They didn't know

what else to do except be there to pick him up when he died.
They forgot who was dying, who was already dead. My brother
quit wearing shirts when a carnival of dirty-breasted women

made him their leader, following him up and down the stairs—
They were acrobats, moving, twitching like snakes—They fed him
crushed diamonds and fire. He gobbled the gifts. My parents

begged him to pluck their eyes out. He thought he was 
Huitzilopchtli, a god, half-man, half-hummingbird. My parents
at his feet, wrecked honeysuckles, he lowered his sword-like mouth,

gorged on them, draining color until their eyebrows whitened.
My brother shattered and quartered them before his basement festivals—
waved their shaking hearts in his fists,

while flea-ridden dogs ran up and down the steps, 
licking their asses,
turning tricks. Neighbors were amazed my parents' hearts kept
growing back—It said a lot about my parents, or parents' hearts.

My brother flung them into cenotes, dropped them from cliffs, 
punched holes into their skulls like useless jars or vases, 
broke them to pieces and fed them to gods ruling

the ratty crotches of street fair whores with pocked faces 
spreading their thighs in flophouses with no electricity. 
He slept in filthy clothes smelling of rotten peaches and matches, 
fell in love

with sparkling spoonfuls the carnival dog-women fed him. 
My parents lost their appetites for food, for sons. 
Like all bad kings, my brother 
wore a crown, a green baseball cap turned backwards

with a Mexican flag embroidered on it. When he wore it 
in the front yard, which he treated like his personal zócalo, 
all his realm knew he had the power that day, had all the jewels

a king could eat or smoke or shoot. The slave girls came 
to the fence and ate out of his hands. He fed them maíz 
through the chain links. My parents watched from the window,

crying over their house turned zoo, their son who was 
now a rusted cage. The Aztec held court in a salt cedar grove 
across the street where peacocks lived. My parents crossed fingers

so he'd never come back, lit novena candles 
so he would. He always came home with turquoise and jade
feathers and stinking of peacock shit. My parents gathered

what he'd left of their bodies, trying to stand without legs,
trying to defend his blows with missing arms, 
searching for their fingers to pray, to climb out of whatever 
dark belly my brother, the Aztec, 
their son, had fed them to.

Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes

Hawk Roosting

I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads -

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

That Little Beast by Mary Oliver

That Little Beast

That pretty little beast, a poem,
     has a mind of its own.
Sometimes I want it to crave apples
     but it wants red meat.
Sometimes I want to walk peacefully
     on the shore
and it wants to take off all its clothes
     and dive in.

Sometimes I want to use small words
     and make them important
and it starts shouting the dictionary,
     the opportunities.

Sometimes I want to sum up and give thanks,
     putting things in order
and it starts dancing around the room
     on its four furry legs, laughing
     and calling me outrageous.

But sometimes, when I’m thinking about you,
     and no doubt smiling,
it sits down quietly, one paw under its chin,
     and just listens.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tomorrow by Mark Strand


Your best friend is gone,
your other friend, too.
Now the dream that used to turn in your sleep,
like a diamond, sails into the year's coldest night.

What did you say?
Or was it something you did?
It makes no difference -- the house of breath collapsing
around your voice, your voice burning, are nothing to worry about.

Tomorrow your friends will come back;
your moist open mouth will bloom in the glass of storefronts.
Yes. Yes. Tomorrow they will come back and you
will invent an ending that comes out right.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In the Museum of Lost Objects by Rebecca Lindenberg

In the Museum of Lost Objects

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee; 
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage. 
Ezra Pound

You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
an empress’s bones, a stolen painting

of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag-draped spear.

A vellum gospel, hidden somewhere long ago
forgotten, would have sat on that pedestal;

this glass cabinet could have kept the first
salts carried back from the Levant.

To help us comprehend the magnitude
of absence, huge rooms

lie empty of their wonders—the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and

in this gallery, empty shelves enough to hold
all the scrolls of Alexandria.

My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest

representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept with others

in the poet’s gallery. Next door,
a vacant room echoes with the spill

of jewels buried by a pirate who died
before disclosing their whereabouts.

I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces

for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

You've Got to Start Somewhere by Deborah Landau

You've Got to Start Somewhere

I had the idea of sitting still
while others rushed by.
I had the thought of a shop
that still sells records.
A letter in the mailbox.
The way that book felt in my hands.
I was always elsewhere.
How is it is to have a body today,
to walk in this city, to run?
I wanted to eat an apple so precisely
the tree would make another
exactly like it, then lie
down uninterrupted
in the gadgetless grass.
I kept texting the precipice,
which kept not answering,
my phone auto-making
everything incorrect.
I had the idea. Put down the phone.
Earth, leaves, storm, water, vine.
The gorgeous art of breathing.
I had the idea — the hope
of friending you without electricity.
Of what could be made among the lampposts
with only our voices and hands.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Confession of Heresy by Alan Dugan

Confession of Heresy

Once I demanded annihilation and frenzy.
I applauded the smiles of thieves and had
a passion for debris. Lost in the traffic
of argument, I appraised skilled assassins
and preached the slaughter of the pure,
but now I’m scared and only critical
of what I once proposed to wreck: I see
vandals at the monuments I hoped to save,
experts, who exceed in self my strong words,
and call themselves the business or the state.
They grow up in the rubble of our wreck,
kill with a purist’s hatred of the strange,
and feed on death, until a liberal man
must blush like a rose for holding on to one,
turn grey, and learn to shout the slogans:
“Annihilation!”, “Frenzy!”, just to run
the gantlets of their streets in safety
from himself, them, or other enemies.

Last Day by May Swenson

Last Day

I’m having a sunbath on the rug
alone in a large house facing south.
A tall window admits a golden trough
the length of a coffin in which I lie
in December, the last day of the year.
Sky in the window perfectly empty.
Naked tree limbs without wind.
No sounds reach my ears except their
ringing, and heart’s thud hollow and
slow. Uncomplicated peace. Scarcely
a motion. Except a shadow that un-
detected creeps. On the table a clay pot,
a clump of narcissus lengthens its stems.
Blue buds sip the sun. Works of the clock
circle their ratchets. There is nothing
to wish for. Nothing to will.
What if this day is endless? No new
year to follow. Alteration done with.
A golden moment frozen, clenched.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cruising by Derrick Austin


It’s a question of inertia: shifting gravel
behind a large beech, catcalls and headlights from the party
still perceivable where you stumble

as he wrestles you into gray bark. You yield
like the braids of a wrought iron fence.

It’s a question of bones: his muscle-car-wide-receiver hands
knead your spine, your narrow back, exposed
bone no amount of flesh can cover.

It’s a question of overindulgence.
He doesn’t let you kiss him. It is law.

He grunts, then purrs, flecks of spit cooling
on your neck. It’s a question of violence
as if you could accuse the water

of drowning or the gate of excessive force.
Quick sex ends with the curt chime of a belt buckle,

high beams block his rugged face.
It’s not violence if it’s meant tenderly,
a belief you think will keep a man,

a belief that lashes boys to fences,
even the butch ones who smell like malt liquor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone. 

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment. 

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin. 

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element. 

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here. 

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed 

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters. 

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he 

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass 

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.