Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Beastangel by Alison C. Rollins

The Beastangel

  After Robert Hayden’s “Bone-Flower Elegy”

In the dream I enter him
I      the eater of numbers
the black-lipped barcode
of cost have come for him
because he owes me. He
owes me the broken machine
the bone structure gone limp
over leg of time. I      irreverent
as safe sex breathlessly
whispering this is not a threat
but a promise for the love of
the wolf on lockdown. Why
the long face? the horsefly
asked the muzzle as though to
suggest these mouths we
have are traps, bold-faced lairs
of brotherhood. Cover your eyes
and you’ll miss it, you’ll miss this
squalid city growing legs from its
scalp. His kneecaps jerked beneath
the sheet, skinned eyelids rolling back
to the /     Point to where he touched
you on the doll, he asked.
¿cómo se dice “everywhere”?
He will pay for this, the heroic
antihero announced, the vulture-
masked man surveying the damage
the clinical centaur now spooked
his hind legs reared as if to say
demons fear beasts in twos.
Rage bound tight in synthetic
skin /     bound and ridden in dialect
at an angle of consumption. After
feeding he asks, What’s the damage?
The legless caterpillar humping itself
forward /    toward my mouth, rending
the lip a cleft palate, twisted up from
firegold sand, a habit of creature
malformed. The men laid flowers
on my mother’s tongue, they come
see about me. These flowers are edible
men /      flowers of sawtooth bone.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bone-Flower Elegy by Robert Hayden

Bone-Flower Elegy

In the dream I enter the house
       wander vast rooms that are
          catacombs midnight subway
              cavernous ruined movie-palace
          where presences in vulture masks
              play scenes of erotic violence
                  on a scaffold stage    I want
          to stay and watch but know somehow
I must not linger and come to the funeral
          chamber    in its icy nonlight see
               a naked corpse
                   turning with sensual movements
                        on its coffin-bed
          I have wept for you many times
      I whisper but shrink from the arms,
             that would embrace me
                 and treading water reach
       arched portals opening on a desert
groves of enormous nameless flowers;
             twist up from firegold sand
       skull flowers flowers of sawtooth bone
             their leaves and petals interlock
                       caging me for you beastangel
                            raging toward me
             angelbeast shining come
                                 to rend me and redeem


Friday, April 28, 2017

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon by Jack Gilbert

Horses at Midnight Without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise 
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing. 
Our spirit persists like a man struggling 
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.


T.S.A. by Amit Majmudar


Off with the wristwatch, the Reeboks, the belt. 
               My laptop’s in a bin.
I dig out the keys from my jeans and do 
               my best Midwestern grin.
At O’Hare, at Atlanta, at Dallas/Fort Worth, 
               it happens every trip,
at LaGuardia, Logan, and Washington Dulles, 
               the customary strip
is never enough for a young brown male 
               whose name comes up at random.
Lest the randomness of it be doubted, observe 
               how Myrtle’s searched in tandem,
how Doris’s six-pack of Boost has been seized 
               and Ethel gets the wand.
How polite of the screeners to sham paranoia 
               when what they really want
is to pick out the swarthiest, scruffiest of us 
               and pat us top to toe,
my fellow Ahmeds and my alien Alis, 
               Mohammed alias Mo—
my buddies from med school, my doubles partners, 
               my dark unshaven brothers
whose names overlap with the crazies and God fiends, 
               ourselves the goateed other.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Cock's Nest by Norman Nicholson

The Cock's Nest

The spring my father died - it was winter, really,
February fill-grave, but March was in
Before we felt the bruise of it and knew
How empty the rooms were - that spring
A wren flew to our yard, over Walter Willson's
Warehouse roof and the girls' school playground
For raising dockens and cats. It found a niche
Tucked behind the pipe of the bathroom outflow,
Caged in a wickerwork of creeper; then
Began to build:
Three times a minute, hour after hour,
Backward and forward to the backyard wall,
Nipping off nebfulls of the soot-spored moss
Rooted between the bricks. In a few days
The nest was finished. They say the cock
Leases an option of sites and leaves the hen 
To choose which nest she will. She didn't choose our yard.
And as March gambolled out, the fat King-Alfred sun
Blared down too early from its tinny trumpet
On new-dug potato-beds, the still bare creeper,
The cock's nest with never an egg in,
And my father dead.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Cure for What Ails You by Cameron Awkward-Rich

The Cure for What Ails You
is a good run, at least according to my mother,
which has seemed, all my life, like cruelty —
when I had a fever, for example, or a heart,
shipwrecked & taking on the flood. But now,
of course, this is what I tell my friend whose eye
has been twitching since last Tuesday, what I
tell my student who can’t seem to focus
her arguments, who believes, still,
that it’s possible to save the world
in 10-12 pages, double-spaced & without irony
I’m asking Have you tried going for a run?
You know, to clear your head? this mother-voice
drowning out what I once thought
to be my own. I’ll admit that when that man
became the president, before terrified I felt
relief — finally, here was the bald face
of the country & now everyone had to look
at it. Everyone had to see what my loves
for their lives, could not unsee. Cruelty
after all is made of distance —
sign here & the world ends
somewhere else. The world. The literal
world. I hold my face close to the blue
light of the screen until my head aches.
Until I’m sick & like a child I just want
someone to touch me with cool hands
& say yes, you’re right, something is wrong
stay here in bed until the pain stops & Oh
mother, remember the night
when, convinced that you were dying,
you raced to the hospital clutching
your heart & by the time you arrived
you were fine. You were sharp
as a blade. Five miles in & I can’t stop
thinking about that video. There’s a man
with his arms raised
in surrender. He was driving
his car. His own car & they’re charging him
bellowing like bulls I didn’t shoot you, motherfucker, 
you should feel lucky for that. Yes. Ok.
Fine. My body too can be drawn
like any weapon. 


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Consider the Hands that Write This Letter by Aracelis Girmay

 Consider the Hands that Write This Letter
                      after Marina Wilson 
Consider the hands
that write this letter.
The left palm pressed flat against the paper,
as it has done before, over my heart,
in peace or reverence
to the sea or some beautiful thing
I saw once, felt once: snow falling
like rice flung from the giants’ wedding,
or the strangest birds. & consider, then,
the right hand, & how it is a fist,
within which a sharpened utensil,
similar to the way I’ve held a spade,
match to the wick, the horse’s reins, 
loping, the very fists
I’ve seen from the roads to Limay & Estelí.
For years, I have come to sit this way:
one hand open, one hand closed,
like a farmer who puts down seeds & gathers up
the food that comes from that farming.
Or, yes, it is like the way I’ve danced
with my left hand opened around a shoulder
& my right hand closed inside
of another hand. & how
I pray, I pray for this
to be my way: sweet
work alluded to in the body’s position
to its paper:
left hand, right hand
like an open eye, an eye closed:
one hand flat against the trapdoor,
the other hand knocking, knocking.


Friday, April 21, 2017

The Suitor by Jane Kenyon

The Suitor

We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping. 
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder; 
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish. 
Suddenly I understand that I am happy. 
For months this feeling 
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vixen by W. S. Merwin


Comet of stillness princess of what is over
       high note held without trembling without voice without sound
aura of complete darkness keeper of the kept secrets
       of the destroyed stories the escaped dreams the sentences
never caught in words warden of where the river went
       touch of its surface sibyl of the extinguished
window onto the hidden place and the other time
       at the foot of the wall by the road patient without waiting
in the full moonlight of autumn at the hour when I was born
       you no longer go out like a flame at the sight of me
you are still warmer than the moonlight gleaming on you
       even now you are unharmed even now perfect
as you have always been now when your light paws are running
       on the breathless night on the bridge with one end I remember you
when I have heard you the soles of my feet have made answer
       when I have seen you I have waked and slipped from the calendars
from the creeds of difference and the contradictions
       that were my life and all the crumbling fabrications
as long as it lasted until something that we were
       had ended when you are no longer anything
let me catch sight of you again going over the wall
       and before the garden is extinct and the woods are figures
guttering on a screen let my words find their own
       places in the silence after the animals


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Motorcyclists by James Tate

The Motorcyclists
My cuticles are a mess. Oh honey, by the way, 
did you like my new negligee? It’s a replica 
of one Kim Novak wore in some movie or other. 
I wish I had a foot-long chili dog right now. 
Do you like fireworks, I mean not just on the 4th of July, 
but fireworks any time? There are people 
like that, you know. They’re like people who like 
orchestra music, listen to it any time of day. 
Lopsided people, that’s what my father calls them. 
Me, I’m easy to please. I like ping-gong and bobcats, 
shatterproof drinking glasses, the smell of kerosene, 
the crunch of carrots. I like caterpillars and 
whirlpools, too. What I hate most is being the first 
one at the scene of a bad accident. 
Do I smell like garlic? Are we still in Kansas? 
I once had a chiropractor make a pass at me, 
did I ever tell you that? He said that your spine 
is happiest when you’re snuggling. Sounds kind 
of sweet now when I tell you, but he was a creep. 
Do you know that I have never understood what they meant 
by “grassy knoll.” It sounds so idyllic, a place to go 
to dream your life away, not kill somebody. They 
should have called it something like “the grudging notch.” 
But I guess that’s life. What is it they always say? 
“It’s always the sweetest ones that break your heart.” 
You getting hungry yet, hon? I am. When I was seven 
I sat in our field and ate an entire eggplant 
right off the vine. Dad loves to tell that story, 
but I still can’t eat eggplant. He says I’ll be the first 
woman President, it’d be a waste since I talk so much. 
Which do you think the fixtures are in the bathroom 
at the White House, gold or brass? It’d be okay with me 
if they were just brass. Honey, can we stop soon? 
I really hate to say it but I need a lady’s room.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Believing in Iron by Yusef Komunyakaa

Believing in Iron

The hills my brothers & I created
 Never balanced, & it took years
 To discover how the world worked.
 We could look at a tree of blackbirds
 & tell you how many were there,
 But with the scrap dealer
 Our math was always off.
 Weeks of lifting & grunting
 Never added up to much,
 But we couldn’t stop
 Believing in iron.
 Abandoned trucks & cars
 Were held to the ground
 By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
 Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
 We’d return with our wheelbarrow
 Groaning under a new load,
 Yet tiger lilies lived better
 In their languid, August domain.
 Among paper & Coke bottles
 Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
 & we couldn’t believe iron
 Left men bent so close to the earth
 As if the ore under their breath
 Weighed down the gray sky.
 Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
 Washed into a sea of metal,
 How it all became an anchor
 For a warship or bomber
 Out over trees with blooms
 Too red to look at.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Migration by Ana Božičević


I never want to get any
More new things.
I wanna wear out these shoes white
And walk on the rug till it’s perfectly
To wear the shoes dark
Walking on an abyss that’s been worn out
The shoes carry me,
I can’t help it,
I fly above the desert with no name


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Diagnosis by Sharon Olds


By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me,
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.


Bogland by Seamus Heaney


We have no prairies 
To slice a big sun at evening-- 
Everywhere the eye concedes to 
Encrouching horizon, 

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye 
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country 
Is bog that keeps crusting 
Between the sights of the sun. 

They've taken the skeleton 
Of the Great Irish Elk 
Out of the peat, set it up 
An astounding crate full of air. 

Butter sunk under 
More than a hundred years 
Was recovered salty and white. 
The ground itself is kind, black butter 

Melting and opening underfoot, 
Missing its last definition 
By millions of years. 
They'll never dig coal here, 

Only the waterlogged trunks 
Of great firs, soft as pulp. 
Our pioneers keep striking 
Inwards and downwards, 

Every layer they strip 
Seems camped on before. 
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage. 
The wet centre is bottomless. 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

“Do-rag” by Phillip B. Williams


O darling, the moon did not disrobe you.
You fell asleep that way, nude
and capsized by our wine, our bump

n’ grind shenanigans. Blame it
on whatever you like; my bed welcomes
whomever you decide to be: hung-

mistress, bride’s bouquet, John Doe
in the alcove of my dreams. You
can quote verbatim an entire album

of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony with your ass
in the air. There’s nothing
wrong with that. They mince syllables

as you call me yours. You don’t
like me but still invite me to your home
when your homies aren’t near

enough to hear us crash into each other
like hours. Some men have killed
their lovers because they loved them

so much in secret that the secret kept
coming out: wife gouging her husband
with suspicion, churches sneering

when an usher enters. Never mind that.
The sickle moon turns the sky into
a man’s mouth slapped sideways

to keep him from spilling what no one would
understand: you call me god when it
gets good though I do not exist to you

outside this room. Be yourself or no one else
here. Your do-rag is camouflage-patterned
and stuffed into my mouth.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

In a Post-Bubble Credit-Collapse Environment by Lawrence Joseph

In a Post-Bubble Credit-Collapse Environment

No clouds, now, nearer to Brooklyn Bridge
than the Bridge is to the Heights. Half a block east,

barefoot on shards of glass, a towel wrapped
around his waist, shaving cream on the left side

of his face—a block south, beside a fire hydrant,
a leg is found severed at the knee. Internal or external—

what difference does it make? I shake the snow
from my coat, take off my gloves, set them

on the counter. I step back onto Spring Street,
and, on Greenwich, start downtown. Sight and sound

reconfigured, details, truths, colors, and shapes
round out the aesthetic. Things changed

and unchanged, and not only in abstract ways.
This young man, yellow pants, undershirt,

stands eating from a garbage bin, patches of ice
on the East River esplanade. One World

Trade Center’s structural steel has reached
the fifty-second of a hundred and four stories.

The light is in a pink and a coral, moving through
pink and violet scumbled over pink, turning red

on violet. That was yesterday’s twilight—this afternoon,
white and gray, and hot. Is everything between

six banks and everything else connected, does the old
money ultimately determine the new? “It’s really, really

tight out there, how can you not think about it?”
is her answer, while seated on the sidewalk at the corner

of Wall and Broad across from the illuminated
Stock Exchange, with backpack and smartphone,

mineral water, sleeping bag, bananas, and figs,
police vans parked up on Nassau, helicopters circling

overhead, her presence digitally monitored.
In a post-bubble credit-collapse environment

three-hundred-and-fifty-per-cent interest rates on payday loans
and the multi-trillion-dollar market in credit-default swaps

are history. “Sub-moron”—the assistant district attorney
bursts into laughter—“drops his coin into the pay phone,

then goes and orders retaliation from the Tombs.”
Sunday’s forecast, the high tide to coincide

with Irene’s heavy rains and hurricane-force winds,
sea level to rise four, five feet at the Battery.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

what the dead know by heart by Donte Collins

what the dead know by heart

lately, when asked how are you, i
respond with a name no longer living

Rekia, Jamar, Sandra

i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder
often:  if the gun that will unmake me
is yet made, what white birth

will bury me, how many bullets, like a
flock of blue jays, will come carry my black
to its final bed, which photo will be used

to water down my blood. today i did
not die and there is no god or law to
thank. the bullet missed my head

and landed in another. today, i passed
a mirror and did not see a body, instead
a suggestion, a debate, a blank

post-it note there looking back. i
haven’t enough room to both rage and
weep. i go to cry and each tear turns

to steam. I say I matter and a ghost
white hand appears over my mouth


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hottentot Venus by Morgan Parker

Hottentot Venus

I wish my pussy could live 
in a different shape and get
some goddamn respect.
Should I thank you?
Business is booming 
and I am not loved
the way I want to be. 
I am an elastic
winter: sympathy
and shock, addictive
decoration. In the sunlight 
my captors 
drink African 
hibiscus. They tell me
I look regal bearing fruit.
I am technically nothing
I will never be 
a woman.
Somewhere in my
memory, I was held
by a man who said
I deserved it.
Now I understand.
No one worries about me 
because I am getting paid.
I am here to show you 
who you are, to cradle
your large skulls 
and remind you
you are perfect. Mother America, 
unleash your sons.
Everything beautiful, you own.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Monsoon Note on Old Age by Agha Shahid Ali

A Monsoon Note on Old Age

This is fifty years later: I
sit across myself, folded in
monsoon sweat, my skin

shriveled, a tired eunuch, aware
only of an absence;
                               the window bars

sketch a prison on me;
                               I shuffle the stars,

a pack of old cards;

                               the night regains
its textures of rain. I overexpose
your photograph, dusting

death’s far-off country


The American Sublime by Wallace Stevens

The American Sublime

How does one stand
To behold the sublime,
To confront the mockers,
The mickey mockers
And plated pairs?

When General Jackson
Posed for his statue
He knew how one feels.
Shall a man go barefoot
Blinking and blank?

But how does one feel?
One grows used to the weather,
The landscape and that;
And the sublime comes down
To the spirit itself,

The spirit and space,
The empty spirit
In vacant space.
What wine does one drink?
What bread does one eat?


Friday, April 7, 2017

Magdalene by Marie Howe


You know it was funny because he seemed so well the night before
I stayed over to meet a student before class

—sitting at the picnic table...already so hot so early.
I must have been looking for a pen or something

when I thought of the car keys and, rummaging through my bag,
couldn’t find them and was up and walking across the grass when

I heard myself say, I feel as if I’m going to lose something today,
—and then I knew, and ran the rest of the way.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

In an Old Book by Constantine P. Cavafy

In an Old Book

In an old book—about a hundred years old—
I found, neglected among the leaves,
a watercolour with no signature.
It must have been the work of a very powerful artist.
It bore the title “Representation of Love.” 

But “—of the love of extreme sensualists” would have been 
    more fitting. 

For it was clear as you looked at this work
(the artist’s idea was easily grasped)
that the youth in this portrait wasn’t meant
for those who love in a somewhat wholesome way,
within the limits of what is strictly permitted—
with his chestnut-brown, intensely colored eyes;
with the superior beauty of his face,
the beauty of unusual allures;
with those flawless lips of his that bring
pleasure to the body that it cherishes;
with those flawless limbs of his, made for beds
called shameless by the commonplace morality. 
(Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn)