Thursday, June 30, 2016

Without by Donald Hall


we live in a small island stone nation
without color under gray clouds and wind
distant the unlimited ocean acute
lymphoblastic leukemia without seagulls
or palm trees without vegetation
or animal life only barnacles and lead
colored moss that darkens when months do

hours days weeks months weeks days hours
the year endures without punctuation
february without ice winter sleet
snow melts and recovers but nothing
without thaw although cold streams hurtle
no snowdrop or crocus rises no yellow
no bright leaves of maple without autumn

no spring no summer no autumn no winter
no rain no peony thunder no woodthrush
the book is a thousand pages without commas
without mice maple leaves windstorms
no castles no plazas no flags no parrots
without carnival or the procession of relics
intolerable without brackets or colons

silence without color sound without smell
without apples without pork to rupture gnash
unpunctuated without churches uninterrupted
no orioles ginger noses no opera no
without fingers daffodils cheekbones
the body is a nation a tribe dug into stone
assaulted white blood broken to fragments

provinces invade bomb shoot shell
strafe execute rape retreat and attack
artillery sniper fire helicopter gunship
grenade burning murder landmine starvation
the ceasefire lasts forty-eight hours
then a shell explodes in a market
pain vomit neuropathy morphine nightmare

confusion terror the rack the screw
vincristine ara-c cytoxan vp-16
loss of memory loss of language losses
foamless unmitigated sea without sea
delirium whipmarks of petechiae pcp
multiple blisters of herpes zoster
and how are you doing today I am doing

one afternoon say the sun comes out
moss takes on greenishness leaves fall
the market opens a loaf of bread a sparrow
a bony dog wanders back sniffing a lath
it might be possible to pick up a pencil
unwritten stanzas taken up and touched
beautiful terrible sentences unuttered

the sea unrelenting wave gray the sea
flotsam without islands broken crates
block after block the same house the mall
no cathedral no hobo jungle the same women
and men they long to drink hayfields
without dog or semicolon or village square
without monkey or lily without garlic

Homage to My Hips by Lucille Clifton

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved, 
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Patience by Kay Ryan


Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant 
ranges and 
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest 
relish by
natives in their 
native dress.
Who would 
have guessed
it possible 
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with 
its own harvests.
Or that in 
time’s fullness
the diamonds 
of patience
couldn’t be 
from the genuine 
in brilliance
or hardness.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Song and the Sultan by Mahmoud Darwish

A Song and the Sultan

It was no more than the description of a burst of rain 
and handkerchiefs of lightning which burned the secret of trees— 
then why did they resist her? 
When she said that something different from this water 
runs in the river 
and the people of the shore are statues and other things, 
why did they torture her? 
When she told them the forest was abounding with secrets 
and the moon was stabbed with a carving knife 
and the blood of the nightingale was on that stone, abandoned, 
why did they resist her? 
Why did they torture her? 
When she said, my country is a mountain of sweat 
and on the small bridge a man is dying 
and darkness burning 
the Sultan was angry 
and the Sultan is an imaginative creature. 
He said, “The fault is in the mirror 
so let your singer be silent 
and let my kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates be.” 
and he shouted, “Put that poem in prison!” 
The torture room, for security, 
is a thousand times better than an anthem or a newspaper. 
Go and tell the Sultan 
that the wind cannot be wounded by the shake of a sword 
that millions of trees can become green 
in the cupped hand of a single letter. 
But the Sultan was angry, and the Sultan is everywhere 
on stamps, in psalms, 
and on his forehead is the tattoo of hunting. 
He shouted, “It is ordered! 
Execute this poem!” 
Execution Square is the best anthology for obstinate sons. 
Go and tell the Sultan 
that lightning cannot be imprisoned in a corncob 
that songs are the logic of the sun 
and the history of sheaves 
and the nature of earthquakes. 
That songs like tree trunks may die in one land 
but sprout in every country 
The blue sun was an idea 
the Sultan tried to submerge 
but it became the birthday of an ember 
and the red sun has become an ember 
which the Sultan in vain imprisoned 
and suddenly the fire 
is a revolution! 
The voices of blood 
have taken the tone of a tempest 
and the pebbles of the Square are becoming 
like open wounds 
and I laugh, awed by the birth of the wind. 
When the Sultan resisted me 
I grasped the key of the morning 
and groped my way with the lamps of wounds. 
Oh how wise I was when I gave my heart 
to the call of the tempest! 
Let the tempest roar, 
O let the tempest roar . . . !

(Translated by Rose Styron)


Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Mower by Philip Larkin

The Mower

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Hug by Thom Gunn

The Hug

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who'd showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
Become familial.
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.  


Friday, June 24, 2016

Excerpt from "Gutted" by Justin Chin

Excerpt from "Gutted"

I would not mind getting the cancer
that Ali MacGraw gets in Love Story,
the cancer where as you lay dying,
you become more beautiful and more moisturized.

The classic death would be Garbo’s Camille,
but all that coughing and flopping around on the bed
is just so undignified. I realize she had consumption,
but at least Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge 
still managed to karaoke with her consumption.

I certainly wouldn’t want the cancer
Debra Winger gets in Terms of Endearment.
“Come to Laugh, Come to Cry, Come to Care, Come to Terms.”
Oh, just go away already.

The death I would most like
is Bette Midler’s in The Rose.
Where, up on stage in front of a packed house,
I’ll tell the story of the first time I heard
the blues, and as the story winds down,
my speech all slurry and raised to an odd minor chord,
I’ll wonder, Why is it so dark? Who turned off all the lights? Where has
everybody gone?
                                                                       Then I will collapse and die.

My one request for my funeral
is that at no point should “I Believe I Can Fly”
be sung, played, hummed, mumbled, muttered,
mentioned or thought of.
                                  This is how poltergeist activity gets started.

But I know, I know my death
                                  will not kill me.
Rather it is the death of others
                                  that will kill me.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Grief Work by Natalie Diaz

Grief Work

I have gazed the black flower blooming
her animal eye. Gacela oscura. Negra llorona.

Along the clayen banks I follow her-astonished,
gathering grief’s petals she lets fall like horns.

Why not now go toward the things I love?

Like Jacob’s angel, I touched the garnet of her wrist,
and she knew my name. And I knew hers—
it was Auxocromo, it was Cromóforo, it was Eliza.
It hurtled through me like honeyed-rum.

When the eyes and lips are touched with honey
what is seen and said will never be the same.

Eve took the apple in that ache-opened mouth,
on fire and in pieces, from the knife’s sharp edge.

In the photo her fist presses against the red-gold
geometry of her thigh. Black nylon, black garter,
unsolvable mysterium—I have to close my eyes to see.

Achilles chasing Hektor round the walls of Ilium
three times. How long must I circle
the high gate above her knees?

Again the gods put their large hands in me,
move me, break my heart like a clay jar of wine,
loosen a beast from some darklong depth—

my melancholy is hoofed. I, the terrible beautiful
Lampon, a shining devour-horse tethered
at the bronze manger of her collarbones.

I do my grief work with her body—labor
to make the emerald tigers in her hips leap,
lead them burning green
to drink from the violet jetting her.

We go where there is love, to the river,
on our knees beneath the sweet water.
I pull her under four times
until we are rivered. We are rearranged.

I wash the silk and silt of her from my hands—
now who I come to, I come clean to, I come good to.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dear Dr. Frankenstein by Jericho Brown

Dear Dr. Frankenstein

I, too, know the science of building men
Out of fragments in little light
Where I'll be damned if lightning don't

Strike as I forget one 
May have a thief's thumb,

Another, a murderer's arm,
And watch the men I've made leave
Like an idea I meant to write down, 

Like a vehicle stuck
In reverse, like the monster

God came to know the moment 
Adam named animals and claimed 
Eve, turning from heaven to her

As if she was his
To run. No word he said could be tamed.

No science. No design. Nothing taken 
Gently into his hand or your hand or mine, 
Nothing we erect is our own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Floating Poem, Unnumbered by Adrienne Rich

The Floating Poem, Unnumbered

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine—tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come—
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Egyptian Cotton by Richie Hofmann

Egyptian Cotton
Once nothing separated us but the gossamer
of sheets—white and gauzy in the summer, when a world
of heat blew in, inflating
the curtains into the room that was his
and mine, when no one else was there—
nothing between the body, whose hot-bloodedness,
whose frailty I had come to know
the duration of my life,
                                            and the body
he drank cool water with, the body he salted, mile after mile
along the coast, fucked me with, with which
he told me what troubled him
                                                          —the two of us in our bed
of Egyptian cotton.
The sea reflected us, our human emotions.
Then the sea refused us, like the sea.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

On Marriage by Marilyn Hacker

On Marriage

Epithalamion? Not too long back
I was being ironic about “wives.”
It’s very well to say, creation thrives
on contradiction, but that’s a fast track
shifted precipitately into. Tacky,
some might say, and look mildly appalled. On
the whole, it’s one I’m likely to be called on.
Explain yourself or face the music, Hack.
No law books frame terms of this covenant.
It’s choice that’s asymptotic to a goal,
which means that we must choose, and choose, and choose
momently, daily. This moment my whole
trajectory’s toward you, and it’s not losing
momentum. Call it anything we want.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Takeoff on Armageddon – For Ronald Reagan by Alan Dugan

Takeoff on Armageddon – For Ronald Reagan

As we tour the field in the pause
before the final battle, you can see
the flowers growing upside down
among the opposing troops. The roses
look like hairy turds in the dirt
and the insects are behaving like animals
gone wild in the stench because God rots.
They have stung everybody involved:
the forces of good and the forces of evil
are stuck: it’s them against them,
they’re exactly equal, exactly the same,
there’s nothing to fight about, it’s all over,
they have all been fundamentally stung.
They stand there forever, paralyzed in shit.
They wanted Armageddon, they got it.
This concludes the tour of the battlefield.

As we move beyond good and evil let us hope
a sexy hunger for catastrophe does not revive them
from their statuesque military postures because
the final battle will be, you know, the final battle,
and then there will be no more good, no more evil,
no more beyond good and no more beyond evil,
no more roses growing upside down in the dirt,
no more insects, and no more you and your rotten God.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Threshold by Ocean Vuong


In the body, where everything has a price,
                I was a beggar. On my knees,

I watched, through the keyhole, not
                the man showering, but the rain

falling through him: guitar strings snapping
                over his globed shoulders.

He was singing, which is why
                I remember it. His voice—

it filled me to the core
                like a skeleton. Even my name

knelt down inside me, asking
                to be spared.

He was singing. It is all I remember.
                For in the body, where everything has a price,

I was alive. I didn’t know
                there was a better reason.

That one morning, my father would stop
                —a dark colt paused in downpour—

& listen for my clutched breath
                behind the door. I didn’t know the cost

of entering a song—was to lose
                your way back.

So I entered. So I lost.
                I lost it all with my eyes

wide open.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Transitions by Eileen Myles


I’m driving
and I pressed
the button
to see who
called &
suddenly I’m
taking pictures.
Big dark
ones. He says
it’s not about
where you sit
to make a
but I wasn’t
taking a
I was driving
it’s black &

there’s all
these lights
I’m strong
it’s night
& I’ve

driven very

I keep hearing
the music
of the weekend
he says
it’s not about
whether she & I
it’s how it goes
with me.

In my car
so long ago
I loved someone
who read me a poem
on the phone
about the car
of the day

you mean the
one I’m driving

and the fact that
she left it
on the phone
and that was new

she said I was overreacting
and that was too much
and we sent our messages
in light
and ack she hated
I thought she’s so
young cause
I like nature
now and her trunk
wrapped around
me one day
he licks my
arm my boy
& driving home I thought
if he dies
I will see his paw
in the sky
I am seeing it now
and she’s always
going hwuh
and she said
I love our little
meeting I said

don’t denigrate
my need to support

my need to say
that you can

I’m glad I’m
Home   it’s wide
out there
we spoke about scaf-
him fitting the
frame to the
she’s grown
I wanted to say
we laughed about
and later on the
about tango
and joan
L Tango Larkin
what’s not technology
what’s not seeing
an arm to say
I hold the
line    I hold
the day
I watch the snowflake

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orchard by H. D.


I saw the first pear         
as it fell—
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,      
the yellow swarm          
was not more fleet than I,                
(spare us from loveliness)          
and I fell prostrate         
you have flayed us        
with your blossoms,              
spare us the beauty       
of fruit-trees.       

The honey-seeking       
paused not,       
the air thundered their song,            
and I alone was prostrate.          

O rough-hewn   
god of the orchard,       
I bring you an offering—           
do you, alone unbeautiful,              
son of the god, 
spare us from loveliness:            

these fallen hazel-nuts,             
stripped late of their green sheaths,      
grapes, red-purple,               
their berries       
dripping with wine,       
pomegranates already broken, 
and shrunken figs          
and quinces untouched,                  
I bring you as offering.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Queerification by Regie Cabico

A Queerification

        —for Creativity and Crisis at the National Mall

queer me    
shift me    
transgress me  
tell my students i’m gay   
tell chick fil a i’m queer 
tell the new york times i’m straight   
tell the mail man i’m a lesbian  
tell american airlines 
i don’t know what my gender is  
like me
liking you
like summer blockbuster armrest dates
armrest cinematic love
elbow to forearm in the dark   
humor me queerly   
fill me with laughter  
make me high with queer gas     
decompress me from centuries of spanish inquisition
& self-righteous judgment
like the blood my blood  
that has mixed w/  the colonizer
& the colonized   
in the extinct & instinct to love 
bust memories of water & heat
& hot & breath
beating skin on skin fluttering   
bruise me into vapors   
bleed me into air   
fly me over sub-saharan africa & asia & antarctica 
explode me from the closet of my fears  
graffiti me out of doubt    
bend me like bamboo  
propose to me  
divorce me  
divide me into your spirit 2 spirit half spirit
& shadow me  w/ fluttering tongues
& caresses  beyond head 
heart chakras  
fist smashing djembes  
between my hesitations   
haiku me into 17 bursts of blossoms & cold saki    
de-ethnicize me   
de-clothe me    
de-gender me in brassieres
& prosthetic genitalias  
burn me on a brazier   
wearing a brassiere   
in bitch braggadocio soprano bass   
magnificat me in vespers
of hallelujah & amen   
libate me in halos
heal me in halls of femmy troubadors   
announcing my hiv status
or your status  
i am not afraid to love you    
implant dialects as if they were lilacs  
in my ear  
medicate me with a lick & a like
i am not afraid to love you  
so demand me      
reclaim me    
queerify me


Monday, June 13, 2016

Excerpt from “Medieval Colonial” 
by Robin Coste Lewis

Excerpt from “Medieval Colonial” 

A Negro Slave Woman
Carrying a Cornucopia
Representing Africa 

A Negro Slave Woman
Holding a Plate of Tropical Fruits
Including a Pineapple

A Negro Servant Boy
Brings in a Tray
Of Filled Glasses Winged 

Female Figure of Hope
On an Anchor

And Holding a Wreath
Over an Inscribed Monument
With a Bale of Cotton 

And a Ship
In the Background Negro Boy
Holding Feathers in His Left Hand 

Pointing to Hope
And a Book
Under His Right Arm

And a Black Man
Holding a Rifle
And pointing to the Arms 

Of the United States
Above to Their Side
Is a Ballot 

Box and Behind
Them a Loco


At Auction Negro Man in Loincloth
serves liquor to Men Bidding 

on The Slaves while A Slave Woman
attends Two Women Observing The Sale. 

African Slave Encased in an Iron Mask
and Collar Slave Children starting out 

to harvest coffee on an oxcart.
Negroes under a date palm. 

Negro Woman Seated
at a table, facing 

left, writing
with a quill. 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Other Side of the River by Charles Wright

The Other Side of the River

Easter again, and a small rain falls
On the mockingbird and the housefly,
                                                     on the Chevrolet
In its purple joy
And the TV antennas huddled across the hillside–

Easter again, and the palm trees hunch
Deeper beneath their burden,
                                             the dark puddles take in
Whatever is given them,
And nothing rises more than halfway out of itself–

Easter with all its little mouths open into the rain.


There is no metaphor for the spring’s disgrace,
No matter how much the rose leaves look like bronze dove hearts,
No matter how much the plum trees preen in the wind.

For weeks I’ve thought about the Savannah River,
For no reason,
                  and the winter fields around Garnett, South Carolina,
My brother and I used to hunt

At Christmas,
                         Princess and Buddy working the millet stands
And the vine-lipped face of the pine woods
In their languorous zigzags,
The quail, when they flushed, bursting like shrapnel points
Between the trees and the leggy shrubs
                                                     into the undergrowth,
Everything else in motion as though under water,
My brother and I, the guns, their reports tolling from far away
Through the aqueous, limb-filtered light,
December sun like a single tropical fish
Uninterested anyway,
                                  suspended and holding still
In the coral stems of the pearl-dusked and distant trees …

There is no metaphor for any of this,
Or the meta-weather of April,
The vinca blossoms like deep bruises among the green.


It’s linkage I’m talking about,
                                          and harmonies and structures
And all the various things that lock our wrists to the past.

Something infinite behind everything appears,
and then disappears.

It’s all a matter of how
                                   you narrow the surfaces.
It’s all a matter of how you fit in the sky.


Often, at night, when the stars seem as close as they do now, and as full,
And the trees balloon and subside in the way they do
                                                                 when the wind is right,
As they do now after the rain,
                                          the sea way off with its false sheen,
And the sky that slick black of wet rubber,
I’m fifteen again, and back on Mount Anne in North Carolina
Repairing the fire tower,
Nobody else around but the horse I packed in with,
                                                            and five days to finish the job.

Those nights were the longest nights I ever remember,
The lake and pavilion 3,000 feet below
                                                    as though modeled in tinfoil,
And even more distant than that,
The last fire out, the after-reflection of Lake Llewellyn
Aluminum glare in the sponged dark,
Lightning bugs everywhere,
                                      the plump stars
Dangling and falling near on their black strings.

These nights are like that,
The silvery alphabet of the sea
                                           increasingly difficult to transcribe,
And larger each year, everything farther away, and less clear,
Than I want it to be,
                                 not enough time to do the job,
And faint thunks in the earth,
As though somewhere nearby a horse was nervously pawing the ground.


I want to sit by the bank of the river,
                                                         in the shade of the evergreen tree,
And look in the face of whatever,
                                            the whatever that’s waiting for me.


There comes a point when everything starts to dust away
More quickly than it appears,
                                        when what we have to comfort the dark
Is just that dust, and just its going away.

Twenty-five years ago I used to sit on this jut of rocks
As the sun went down like an offering through the glaze
And backfires of Monterey Bay,
And anything I could think of was mine because it was there
in front of me, numinously everywhere,
Appearing and piling up …

So to have come to this,
                                       remembering what I did do, and what I didn’t do,
The gulls whimpering over the boathouse,
                                                   the monarch butterflies
Cruising the flower beds,
And all the soft hairs of spring thrusting up through the wind,
And the sun, as it always does,
                                           dropping into its slot without a click,
Is a short life of trouble.