Monday, October 31, 2016

All Hallows by Louise Glück

All Hallows

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
Sleep in their blue yoke,
The fields having been
Picked clean, the sheaves
Bound evenly and piled at the roadside
Among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
Of harvest or pestilence
And the wife leaning out the window
With her hand extended, as in payment,
And the seeds
Distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison by Nazim Hikmet

Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison

If instead of being hanged by the neck
            you’re thrown inside
            for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, and people,
            if you do ten or fifteen years
            apart from the time you have left,
you won’t say,
                        “Better I had swung from the end of a rope
                                                                        like a flag”—
you’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
            to live one more day
                                    to spite the enemy.
Part of you may live alone inside,
                        like a stone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
            must be so caught up
            in the flurry of the world
              that you shiver there inside
      when outside, at forty days’ distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
                               is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
                        and for spring nights,
        and always remember
               to eat every last piece of bread—
also, don’t forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don’t say it’s no big thing:
it’s like the snapping of a green branch
                                              to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
         ten or fifteen years inside
                                        and more—
                you can,
                as long as the jewel
                on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose its luster!

(Tanslated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thoughts of a Solitary Farmhouse by Franz Wright

Thoughts of a Solitary Farmhouse

And not to feel bad about dying. 
Not to take it so personally—

it is only
the force we exert all our lives

to exclude death from our thoughts 
that confronts us, when it does arrive,

as the horror of being excluded— . . .
something like that, the Canadian wind

coming in off Lake Erie
rattling the windows, horizontal snow

appearing out of nowhere
across the black highway and fields like billions of white bees.

Friday, October 28, 2016

All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood by Morgan Parker

All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood

I am free with the following conditions.
Give it up gimme gimme.
Okay so I’m Black in America right and I walk into a bar.
I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard.
I do whatever I want because I could die any minute.
I don’t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me.
I know my pussy is real good because they said so.
I say to my friend I am broke as a joke.
I am Starvin’ Like Marvin Gaye.
I’m so hungry I could get it on.
There’s far too many of me dying.
The present is not so different.
Everybody looks like everybody I worked with.
Everybody looks like everybody I’ve kissed.
Men champion men and animals.
Everybody thinks I’m going to die.
At the museum I tell the school group about Black art.
I tell them the word contemporary.
I have a nose ring I forget about.
I have a brother and he is also Black.
I am a little modern to the fault.
I say this painting is contemporary like you and me.
They ask me about slavery. They say Martin Luther King.
At school they learned that Black people happened.
The present is not so different.
I’m looking into their Black faces.
They do not understand that they exist.
I’m Black in America and I walk
into a bar and drink a lot of wine, kiss a white man on his beard.
There is no indictment.
I could die any minute of depression.
I just want to have sex most of the time.
I just want my student loans to disappear.
I just want to understand my savings account.
What is happening to my five dollar one cent.
I am free with the following conditions.
What is happening to my brother.
What if I do something wrong.
My blood is so hot and wet right now.
I know they want it.
I do everything right just incase.
I don’t want to give away my money but here I am.
It’s so stupid I have to say here I am.
They like to be on top.
I am being set up.
I am a tree and some fruits are good and some are bad.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Social Skills Training by Solmaz Sharif

Social Skills Training

Studies suggest How may I help you officer? is the single most disarming thing to say and not What’s the problem? Studies suggest it’s best the help reply My pleasure and not No problem. Studies suggest it’s best not to mention problem in front of power even to say there is none. Gloria Steinem says women lose power as they age and yet the loudest voice in my head is my mother. Studies show the mother we have in mind isn’t the mother that exists. Mine says: What the fuck are you crying for? Studies show the baby monkey will pick the fake monkey with fake fur over the furless wire monkey with milk, without contest. Studies show to negate something is to think it anyway. I’m not sad. I’m not sad. Studies recommend regular expressions of gratitude and internal check-ins. Enough, the wire mother says. History is a kind of study. History says we forgave the executioner. Before we mopped the blood we asked: Lord Judge, have I executed well? Studies suggest yes. What the fuck are you crying for, officer? the wire mother teaches me to say, while studies suggest Solmaz, have you thanked your executioner today?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Neverland by Galway Kinnell


Bending over her bed, I saw the smile
I must have seen when gaping up from the crib.
Knowing death will come, sensing its onset,
may be a fair price for consciousness.
But looking at my sister, I wished
she could have died by surprise,
without ever knowing about death.
Too late. Wendy said, “I am in three parts.
Here on the left is red. That is pain.
On the right is yellow. That is exhaustion.
The rest is white. I don’t know yet what white is.”
For most people, one day everything is all right.
The next, the limbic node catches fire. The day after,
the malleus in one ear starts missing the incus.
Then the arthritic opposable thumb no longer opposes
whoever last screwed the top onto the jam jar.
Then the coraco-humeral ligament frizzles apart,
the liver speckles, the kidneys dent,
two toes lose their souls. Of course,
before things get worse, a person could run for it.
I could take off right now, climb the pure forms
that surmount time and death, follow a line
down Avenue D, make a 90° turn right on 8th Street,
90° left on C, right on 7th, left on B, then cross
to Sixth Avenue, catch the A train
to Nassau, where the A pulls up beside the Z,
get off, hop on the Z, hurtle under the river
and rise on Euclid under the stars and taste,
with my sweetheart, in perfectly circular kisses,
the actual saliva of paradise.
Then, as if Wendy suddenly understood
this flaw in me, that I could die
still wanting what is not to be had here, drink
and drink and yet have most of my thirst
intact for the water table, she opened her eyes.
“I want you to know I’m not afraid of dying,”
she said. “I just wish it didn’t take so long.”
Seeing her appear so young and yet begin to die
all on her own, I wanted to whisk her off.
Quickly she said, “Let’s go home.” From outside
in the driveway came the gargling noise
of a starter motor, and a low steady rumbling, as if
my car had turned itself on and was warming up the engine.
She closed her eyes. She was entirely white,
as if freshly powdered with twice-bleached flour.
Color flashed only when she opened her eyes.
Snow will come down next winter, in the woods;
the fallen trees will have that flesh on their bones.
When the eye of the woods opens, a bluejay shuttles.
Outside, suddenly, all was quiet,
I realized my car had shut off its engine.
Now a spot of rosiness showed in each cheek:
blushes, perhaps, at a joy she had kept from us,
from somewhere in her life, perhaps two mouths,
hers and a beloved’s, near each other, like roses
sticking out of a bottle of invisible water.
She was losing the half-given, half-learned
art of speech, and it became for her a struggle
to find words, form them, position them,
quickly say them. After much effort she said,
“Now is when the point of the story changes.”
After that, one eye at a time, the left listened,
and drifted, the right focused, gleamed
meanings at me, drifted. Stalwart,
the halves of the brain, especially the right.
Now, as they ratchet the box that holds
her body into the earth, a voice calls
back across the region she passes through,
a far landscape I seem to see from above,
in prolonged, even notes that swell and diminish.
Now it sounds from beneath the farthest horizon,
and now it grows faint, and now I cannot hear it.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Poem with Accidental Memory by Adam Fitzgerald

Poem with Accidental Memory

That we go back to life one day, the next,
Some other century where we were alive,

When music spelled itself out to us, often
Incomplete, and nothing was more vague

Than the banality of  whom to love and lose
In line, the doppelgangers in rimless snow,

Or even now, in summer, at day, by night,
When something oblivious, replete, turns

Back at us in idolatrous quiet, so we see
Who in nullified particulars we really are

At a desk of our own making, filling in for
Someone else’s life sentence, blots drying

On a silk tie having no meaning but today’s,
When the loner puts his insomnia to rest.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Leaves by Derek Mahon


The prisoners of infinite choice
Have built their house
In a field below the wood
And are at peace.

It is autumn, and dead leaves
On their way to the river
Scratch like birds at the windows
Or tick on the road.

Somewhere there is an afterlife
Of dead leaves,
A stadium filled with an infinite
Rustling and sighing.

Somewhere in the heaven
Of lost futures
The lives we might have led
Have found their own fulfillment.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Langston Blue by Jericho Brown

Langston Blue

“O Blood of the River of songs,
O songs of the River of Blood,”
        Let me lie down. Let my words 

Lie sound in the mouths of men
Repeating invocations pure
        And perfect as a moan 

That mounts in the mouth of Bessie Smith.
Blues for the angels kicked out       
Of heaven. Blues for the angels 

Who miss them still. Blues
For my people and what water
        They know. O weary drinkers 

Drinking from the bloody river,
Why go to heaven with Harlem
        So close? Why sing of rivers 

With fathers of our own to miss?
I remember mine and taste a stain
        Like blood coursing the body 

Of a man chased by a mob. I write
His running, his sweat: here,
        He climbs a poplar for the sky, 

But it is only sky. The river?
Follow me. You’ll see. We tried
        To fly and learned we couldn’t 

Swim. Dear singing river full
Of my blood, are we as loud under
        Water? Is it blood that binds 

Brothers? Or is it the Mississippi
Running through the fattest vein
        Of America? When I say home, 

I mean I wanted to write some
Lines. I wanted to hear the blues,
        But here I am swimming in the river 

Again. What flows through the fat
Veins of a drowned body? What
        America can a body call 

Home? When I say Congo, I mean
Blood. When I say Nile, I mean blood.
        When I say Euphrates, I mean, 

If only you knew what blood
We have in common. So much,
        In Louisiana, they call a man like me 

Red. And red was too dark
For my daddy. And my daddy was
        Too dark for America. He ran 

Like a man from my mother
And me. And my mother’s sobs
        Are the songs of Bessie Smith 

Who wears more feathers than Death.
O the death my people refuse
        To die. When I was 18, I wrote down 

The river though I couldn’t win
A race, climbed a tree that winter, then
        Fell, flat on my wet, red face. Line 

After line, I read all the time,
But “there was nothing I could do
        About race.”


Douche-Bag Ode by Sharon Olds

Douche-Bag Ode

When I hear the young refer to someone as a
douche bag, I want to say, You may have
never seen a douche bag. They were red
rubber bags, like hot water bottles, you’d
fill it and hang it high enough
so that gravity . . . I can’t go on,
I see my mother’s douche bag, my poor
douche-bag mom’s pathetic douche bag with its
clamps, and its aorta tubes,
dangling over the bathtub, awesomely
shameful, and which reminded me I
’d been some kind of catsup Halloween
costume in her, almost before I was
bipedal. And so to call someone a
saline sac—Let’s take some pity
on the creepiness of how women were treated
in the 1950s. It drove my mother
crazy, but she did the best she could—
she never turned and said, I could have got
rid of you, my little valentine,
but I gave you the warm, rose-colored lunch bag
of the placenta: I gave you my heart to eat.
And now I remember it, not my mother’s
but mine, like a dowry—lock the door, then,
hang it from the shower rod like food hung over
a bough, out of animal reach,
slide the perforated wand inside you then un-
clasp the clamp, and Lo!, you are
a night clearing, in which a fountain o
f Aphrodite leaps up, her brine
sea chanty, her sparkling douche-bag song.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On a Dirt Road Outside Oaxaca by Javier Zamora

On a Dirt Road Outside Oaxaca

The Mexican never said how long.
¿How long? Not long. ¿How much?
Not much. Never told us we’d hide in vans like matchsticks.

In our town, we’d never known Mexicans
besides the women and men in soap-operas,

so in our heads, we played the fence,
the San Ysidro McDonald’s, a quick run, a van, then, ¡Eureka!
Just like that.

Not long, not long at all. In Oaxaca,
a small brown lizard licks horchata from my hand—
we’re friends, we pick names for each other.

Hola Paula. Hola Javier, she says.
We play the fence, a quick run, the van ...

¿How long? Not long. On the dirt,
our knees tell truths to the cops’ front-sights and barrels.
¿How much? Not much.

We’d never known Mexicans besides Chente,
Chavela Vargas. We’re on the dirt
like dogs showing nipples

to offspring, it’s not spring,
and we’re going to where there is spring,

we say it’s gonna be alright,
it’s gonna be just fine—
my hands play with Paula.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Medusa by Louise Bogan


I had come to the house, in a cave of trees, 
Facing a sheer sky. 
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike, 
Sun and reflection wheeled by. 

When the bare eyes were before me 
And the hissing hair, 
Held up at a window, seen through a door. 
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead 
Formed in the air. 

This is a dead scene forever now. 
Nothing will ever stir. 
The end will never brighten it more than this, 
Nor the rain blur. 

The water will always fall, and will not fall, 
And the tipped bell make no sound. 
The grass will always be growing for hay 
Deep on the ground. 

And I shall stand here like a shadow 
Under the great balanced day, 
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind, 
And does not drift away.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Marching by Jim Harrison


At dawn I heard among bird calls
the billions of marching feet in the churn
and squeak of gravel, even tiny feet
still wet from the mother's amniotic fluid,
and very old halting feet, the feet
of the very light and very heavy, all marching
but not together, criss-crossing at every angle
with sincere attempts not to touch, not to bump
into each other, walking in the doors of houses
and out the back door forty years later, finally
knowing that time collapses on a single
plateau where they were all their lives,
knowing that time stops when the heart stops
as they walk off the earth into the night air.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

There's a certain Slant of light, (320) by Emily Dickinson

There's a certain Slant of light, (320)

There's a certain Slant of light, 
Winter Afternoons – 
That oppresses, like the Heft 
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar, 
But internal difference – 
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
'Tis the seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction 
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance 
On the look of Death –


Friday, October 7, 2016

Yellow Afternoon by Wallace Stevens

Yellow Afternoon

It was in the earth only
That he was at the bottom of things
And of himself. There he could say
Of this I am, this is the patriarch,
This it is that answers when I ask,
This is the mute, the final sculpture
Around which silence lies on silence.
This reposes alike in springtime
And, arbored and bronzed, in autumn.

He said I had this that I could love,
As one loves visible and responsive peace,
As one loves one’s own being,
As one loves that which is the end
And must be loved, as one loves that
Of which one is a part as in a unity,
A unity that is the life one loves,
So that one lives all the lives that comprise it
As the life of the fatal unity of war.

Everything comes to him
From the middle of his field. The odor
Of earth penetrates more deeply than any word.
There he touches his being. There as he is
He is. The thought that he had found all this
Among men, in a woman—she caught his breath—
But he came back as one comes back from the sun
To lie on one’s bed in the dark, close to a face
Without eyes or mouth, that looks at one and speaks.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Writer by Richard Wilbur

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story. 

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale. 

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage. 

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which 

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent. 

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash 

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
 We watched the sleek, wild, dark 

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top, 

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure, 

It lifted off from a chair-back, 
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world. 

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

At the Grave of Zora Neale Hurston by Derrick Austin

At the Grave of Zora Neale Hurston

I kept my mad hound, Zora.
We wandered many miles,
pollen and dust staining us
the gold of ancient idols.

I got wet dog under my fingers.
He smells like me now, too,
you see he’s carried road kill
all the way here—raccoon,

then possum, hitched a fawn
five miles north, buried a fox
outside of town—it’s in the blood
of his teeth. He found me, too,

by the roadside. Followed me
ever since. That first night,
I saw myself as that hound
licking my own face clean.

That morning, a distant cousin
gave me his gun, told me
to kill it. I couldn’t shoot him.
Anything that loves you will

lay down for you or know enough
to fake it. I’m a coward in my life
unlike my work. I don’t know
which is worse. So many things

are conspiring to kill me, Zora.
Not only sickness and guns
but the tongues of those who
would sooner kiss me or call me

lover. Zora, it’s not my dying day.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sacred and Profane Love by Richie Hofmann

Sacred and Profane Love

Our overnight train was outpacing
the countryside, the speed at which it moved flattening the grass,
                                                                                  while, in our sleeper car,
he jerked my shirt back up over my shoulders, and I bit
the white cotton.

The stiff blankets loosening, the shadows loosening.
Dawn outrunning the edges of the drawn shade.

Morning, the clothes flattened with our hands, the suitcase zipped.
A short walk to the stone house, to the oak trees, the stables

where the Lipizzaner stallions were kept,
where the riders pushed the horses to perfection in straightness,
                                                                                  contact, and impulsion,
and in their dark compartments, the young,
the celebrated, were changing from gray to white.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Encounter and Farewell by Patricia Spears Jones

Encounter and Farewell

It's all foreplay, really-this walk
through the French Quarter exploring souvenir shops,
each of them carefully deranged, as if dust were to settle
only at perfect intervals. Yes to the vetiver fan
that smells sweeter than sandalwood or cedar.
No to the mammy doll dinner bells.
No to the mammy dolls whose sewn smiles are as fixed
as the lives of too many poor Black women here:
motherhood at twelve, drugged, abandoned by fifteen,
dead by twenty (suicide, murder) so easily in Desire.
And yet, their voices sweeten the snaking air,
providing the transvestites their proper Muses,
all of whom have streets named for them in the Garden District.

A soft heat settles on Terpsichore,
just inside the gay bar where the owner's pink flamingos
complement silly songs on the rescued Rockola.
Who can dance to that Lorne Greene ballad, "Ringo"?

Dixie beer is the beer of choice; marijuana the cheapest drug.
Relaxation is key, since it's all a matter of waiting
for the right body to stumble toward you.
Lust perfumes parties in the projects, barstool chatter at the Hyatt,
lazy kissing on the median strip stretching down Tchoupitoulas.
If Professor Longhair were alive, he'd teach a lesson
in seamless motion: the perfect slide of a man's hand down a 
              woman's back;

a lesson you learned long ago before you met me. We are making love
as we did before in Austin and Manhattan.
But in this room on this costly bed our lovemaking
starts out the slowest grind, then, like this city's weather,
goes from hot to hotter, from moist to rainstorm wet.

You're tall, A., and where there should be tribal markings
there are scars-football, basketball, mid-sixties grind parties
where something always got out of hand. There's the perfect
amen. You're your own gospel.
And you bring good news to me-the way you enter me
Like grace, the way you say my name, a psalm.
No. That's not it. It's the engineer in you that
gets me. Your search for the secret line that goes
straight to the center of the earth. Deeper and deeper
you go until there's no earth left in me. And we
hum and moan a song as old as our selves gone back.

There are too many souvenirs in your eyes.
Gifts given too often, too hastily, never opened.

Outside a city sprawls its heat, seeks out every pore,
licks every moment of sweat as we shiver in this chilly room
taking each other's measure. We say good-bye again and again.
As if every kiss, every touch we make will shadow
All our celebrations.

And they do.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
– your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers …

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

               this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

                         and knew

               what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.