Monday, February 29, 2016

Their Sex Life by A. R. Ammons

Their Sex Life

One failure on 
Top of another.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

First Death In Nova Scotia by Elizabeth Bishop

First Death In Nova Scotia

In the cold, cold parlor
my mother laid out Arthur
beneath the chromographs:
Edward, Prince of Wales,
with Princess Alexandra,
and King George with Queen Mary.
Below them on the table
stood a stuffed loon
shot and stuffed by Uncle
Arthur, Arthur's father.

Since Uncle Arthur fired
a bullet into him,
he hadn't said a word.
He kept his own counsel
on his white, frozen lake,
the marble-topped table.
His breast was deep and white,
cold and caressable;
his eyes were red glass,
much to be desired.

"Come," said my mother,
"Come and say good-bye
to your little cousin Arthur."
I was lifted up and given
one lily of the valley
to put in Arthur's hand.
Arthur's coffin was
a little frosted cake,
and the red-eyed loon eyed it
from his white, frozen lake.

Arthur was very small.
He was all white, like a doll
that hadn't been painted yet.
Jack Frost had started to paint him
the way he always painted
the Maple Leaf (Forever).
He had just begun on his hair,
a few red strokes, and then
Jack Frost had dropped the brush
and left him white, forever.

The gracious royal couples
were warm in red and ermine;
their feet were well wrapped up
in the ladies' ermine trains.
They invited Arthur to be
the smallest page at court.
But how could Arthur go,
clutching his tiny lily,
with his eyes shut up so tight
and the roads deep in snow? 


Friday, February 26, 2016

Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world. 
Remember June's long days, 
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew. 
The nettles that methodically overgrow 
the abandoned homesteads of exiles. 
You must praise the mutilated world. 
You watched the stylish yachts and ships; 
one of them had a long trip ahead of it, 
while salty oblivion awaited others. 
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere, 
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully. 
You should praise the mutilated world. 
Remember the moments when we were together 
in a white room and the curtain fluttered. 
Return in thought to the concert where music flared. 
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn 
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars. 
Praise the mutilated world 
and the grey feather a thrush lost, 
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes 
and returns.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

American Singer by Matthew Zapruder

American Singer

when I walk
to the mailbox
holding the letter
that fails to say
how sorry I am
you feel your call
or any words at all
on that day
would have stopped
the great singer
who long ago
decided more
quickly through
to move
I notice probably
because you wrote
that strange
word funeral
the constant black
fabric I think
is taffeta
always draped
over the scaffolds
the figures
scraping paint
are wearing dusty
protective suits
and to each other
saying nothing
I move invisibly
like a breeze
around three men
wearing advanced
practically weightless
jackets impervious
to all possible
weather even
a hurricane
I hear them say
something German
then photograph
the pale blue
turrets that floating
up in fog
seem noble
heads full
of important thoughts
like what revolution
could make us happy
from some window
wandering horns
he was three
when I was born
for a long time
I had no ideas
my father worked
in a private office
full of quiet
people working
I came to visit
it seemed correct
I went to college
studied things
dyed my hair
felt a rage
disguised as love
kept escaping
suffering only
a few broken bones
everything healed
now I live
in California
where in some
red and golden
theater I saw
him howl
such unfathomable
force from only
one lung
it was one
of  his last shows
in Athens once
many years
ago we shared
a cigarette
a little smoke
from our faces
I can’t remember
so many things
but see him
in his wheelchair
his folded body
it’s all gone
but for electrons
I can still push
into my ears
I choose the song
the perfect one
hear his words
and see
the mirror
in the ancient
lighthouse blinking
brave ships
you crossed
the water carrying
what we need
you can rest
light as nothing
in the harbor
we will take it
and go on


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Hand by Mary Ruefle

The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Placeholder by Joseph Massey


Now that the animal 
trapped in the rafters

is silent, the cold alone

is a sound. 
February's glare

bent by Victorian glass

casts the outline 
of a spike of ice

spread from floor to ceiling—

the only thing 
holding the house up.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The River of Girls by Tishani Doshi

The River of Girls

i.m. India's missing girls

This is not really myth or secret.
This murmur in the mouth
of the mountain where the sound
of rain is born. This surging
past pilgrim town and village well.
This coin-thin vagina
and acid stain of bone.
This doctor with his rusty tools,
this street cleaner, this mother
laying down the bloody offerings
of birth. This is not the cry
of a beginning, or a river
buried in the bowels of the earth.
This is the sound of ten million girls
singing of a time in the universe
when they were born with tigers
breathing between their thighs;
when they set out for battle
with all three eyes on fire,
their golden breasts held high
like weapons to the sky.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dream Song 14 by John Berryman

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.   
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,   
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy   
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored   
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no   
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,   
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes   
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.   
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag   
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving            
behind: me, wag.


The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz

The Long Boat

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bow Down by Derrick Austin

Bow Down

Let us talk of…what then—
are we that silent moment on the stage
when kings are out of rules and fools of puns?
Remember crossing the bridges by the sea,
you a stranger here, asking
the name of the tree ruffled with purple?


It was knowledge, a kind of lording
over another, as when sunning at a pool,
you dipped one leg in the water.
As if you were given all its crowns.


Before you drifted into my life—waiting
in the wings—I said no to so much.
Nudging me, you said, Please
put it in your mouth. You do this to me.


Kings wait to see who will kneel.
I’ve forgotten my line. Is this when I
abdicate the throne or bruise you
with my scepter?
                                 I beg
your pardon. I would resign the crown
a thousand times to kneel at your feet.
What kind of king am I? I’m just as lost as you.


Drifter, stardust, little marsh-light,
you are known by so many names:
Bassanio, Gaveston…
                                         Try a new skin:
friar, courtier, dominance,
submission—it’s all foreplay, roleplay.
We bow. The curtain falls. Another night.

Respiration by Jamaal May


A lot of it lives in the trachea, you know.
But not so much that you won’t need more muscle:
the diaphragm, a fist clenching at the bottom.
Inhale. So many of us are breathless,
you know, like me
kneeling to collect the pottery shards
of a house plant my elbow has nudged
into oblivion. What if I sigh,
and the black earth beneath me scatters
like insects running from my breath?
Am I a god then? Am I insane
because I worry about the disassembling of earth
regularly? I walk more softly now

into gardens or up the steps of old houses
with impatiens stuffed in their window boxes.
When it’s you standing there with a letter
or voice or face full of solemn news,
will you hold your breath before you knock?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

“1 Corinthians 13” by Spencer Reece

“1 Corinthians 13”

How long do we wait for love?
Long ago, we rowed on a pond.
Our oars left the moon broken—
our gestures ruining the surface.
Our parents wanted us to marry.
Beyond the roses were we lay,
men who loved men grew wounds.
When do we start to forget our age?
Your husband and I look the same.
All day, your mother confuses us
as her dementia grows stronger.
Your boys yell: Red Rover!
We whisper your sister’s name
like librarians; at last on the list,
her heart clapping in her rib cage,
having stopped now six times,
the pumps opened by balloons,
we await her new heart cut
out from the chest of a stranger.
Your old house settles in its bones,
pleased by how we are arranged.
Our shadow grows like an obituary.
One of us says: “It is getting so dark.”
Your children end their game.
Trees stiffen into scrapbooks.
The sky’s shelves fill with stars.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Kimono by James Merrill

The Kimono

When I returned from lovers' lane
My hair was white as snow.
Joy, incomprehension, pain
I'd seen like seasons come and go.
How I got home again
Frozen half dead, perhaps you know.

You hide a smile and quote a text:
Desires ungratified
Persist from one life to the next.
Hearths we strip ourselves beside
Long, long ago were x'd
On blueprints of "consuming pride."

Times out of mind, the bubble-gleam
To our charred level drew
April back. A sudden beam . . .
--Keep talking while I change into
The pattern of a stream
Bordered with rushes white on blue.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

David Cassidy Then by Dennis Cooper

David Cassidy Then

David Cassidy picks me on The Dating Game.
I walk around the partition
and there he is. A quick kiss,
then Jim Lange gives us the good news.

“David, we’ll be flying you and your date
to . . . Rio de Janeiro! You’ll be
staying at the luxurious Rio Hilton
and attend a party in your honor!”

At the Hilton we knock the chaperone
out with a lamp, then we jive
around, smoke a little Colombian.
David says something to let me
know he’s willing, and I get
to chew his clothes off.

He dances Swan Lake naked
and I sprawl out on the bed.
He saunters over scolding me in French,
and covers my face with his modest rear.

He gives me a few minutes
then he’s up, blow-drying the drool
from his legs. He slips on a white jumpsuit,
runs a thumb across his teeth, and
turns to where I sit, still dreamy on the bed.

“Come on,” he says, full of breath.
Never so proud, I bring my hands up,
rub his stink into my face like a lotion.
I will wear it to the party!

As the lobby doors open
reporters start the sea of lights.
The cameras take us kissing, dancing.
They angle to get David’s sheathed body.
Girls watch his ass like a television screen
of men stepping onto the moon.

Little do they know what really lies there,
that this is no tan. “This is David,”
I say, smelling my face like a flower,
and pull him close, stoned out of my gourd.

The Kiss by Neil Carpathios

The Kiss

By freezing passion at its blossoming
perhaps Rodin knew he challenged
Sophocles who said as lover you want
ice to be ice yet not melt
in your hands. How stone,
implying permanence, might let us believe,
a moment, the seated figures are beyond the leaf
that cannot keep from letting go the branch,
beyond even stupidly purpling grapes
that do not understand the process
by which they darken; darken nevertheless.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jasmine by Yusef Komunyakaa


I sit beside two women, kitty-corner 
to the stage, as Elvin's sticks blur 
the club into a blue fantasia.
I thought my body had forgotten the Deep 
South, how I'd cross the street
if a woman like these two walked 
towards me, as if a cat traversed 
my path beneath the evening star. 
Which one is wearing jasmine? 
If my grandmothers saw me now 
they'd say, Boy, the devil never sleeps. 
My mind is lost among November 
cotton flowers, a soft rain on my face 
as Richard Davis plucks the fat notes 
of chance on his upright
leaning into the future. 
The blonde, the brunette-- 
which one is scented with jasmine? 
I can hear Duke in the right hand 
& Basie in the left
as the young piano player 
nudges us into the past. 
The trumpet's almost kissed
by enough pain. Give him a few more years, 
a few more ghosts to embrace--Clifford's 
shadow on the edge of the stage.
The sign says, No Talking. 
Elvin's guardian angel lingers 
at the top of the stairs, 
counting each drop of sweat 
paid in tribute. The blonde 
has her eyes closed, & the brunette 
is looking at me. Our bodies 
sway to each riff, the jasmine 
rising from a valley somewhere 
in Egypt, a white moon 
opening countless false mouths 
of laughter. The midnight 
gatherers are boys & girls 
with the headlights of trucks 
aimed at their backs, because 
their small hands refuse to wound 
the knowing scent hidden in each bloom. 


Thursday, February 11, 2016

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314) by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Poem by Muriel Rukeyser


I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Travel Tickets by Samih al-Qasim

Travel Tickets

The day I'm killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets, 
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one 
to the conscience of humankind.

Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not stay and waste them.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.

(Translated by A.Z. Foreman)


Monday, February 8, 2016

Second Empire by Richie Hofmann

Second Empire

The water, for once,
unmetaphysical. Stepping over
the stones, you pulling

your shirt over your shoulders.
The flesh-and-
blood that constitutes you

could have been anything and yet

appears before me
as your body. Wading out again,

I am a little white omnivore

in the black water,
inhaling avidly
the absence of shame.

We lie on our backs
with our underwear on.

The soul is an aristocrat.

It disdains the body,
staring through the water
at the suggestion of our human forms.


When Grace at the Bliss Café Calls by Jane Vandenburgh

When Grace at the Bliss Café Calls

It’s a terrible day in Baltimore,
and in Kathmandu, and in the port

city of Salerno gloom pervades, and
your own private sorrow’s throbbing

in the exact center of your right
hand, a pain that radiates outward

from palm to fingers that cannot find
the shape of your mechanical pencil,

a Mont Blanc in the burgundy they
don’t make anymore, a gift given

long ago, engraved, and obviously
too good for you since now you’ve lost

it, and this lack fixes you in a place
of grief age-old and physical, an

ache so similar to the pulsing you’d
feel in the exact center of either palm

after your father killed himself and
you felt the immediate need to write

lists, words invented for some self-
administered spelling test, your then

being told this was an odd, wrong,
cold thing to do. America, you’d

write, if you had your pencil, will you
now turn out to be only a beautiful

idea? You dreaming the weight of
a loss that feels as incalculable as

being orphaned at nine or seeing
another neighborhood gutted or

our communal need to witness the
next 300 lost at sea. Your name

almost exactly his, the etching now
faint along its barrel, and how you’ve

given pens and pencils to your own
kids extravagantly, each birthday, every

Christmas, then found them still in
boxes stuffed in a sock drawer after

they’d returned to school. It was the
classroom that saved you, the clean

notebook, the word September, and
all that white around the black block

of text where you could write what
you really thought, which was that

the dead could talk to you, like when
you stayed in bed all day drawing

lilacs because Ross’s wife was Orthodox
so there was was no time to get to his

funeral. Stones thrown, cop cars
torched, bells ringing out across our

riven land, and it’s exactly here, typing
the word riven, then wondering if

you know what it really means, that the
phone rings, the read-out saying Bliss

and it’s Grace, your server at the
vegetarian café by the creek 200 miles

away where you ate three days ago,
saying she needs your address so she

can mail your pencil back to you.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chaplinesque by Hart Crane


We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.