Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Fish by Marianne Moore

The Fish

through black jade.
       Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
       adjusting the ash-heaps;
              opening and shutting itself like 

injured fan.
       The barnacles which encrust the side
       of the wave, cannot hide
              there for the submerged shafts of the 

split like spun
       glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
       into the crevices—
              in and out, illuminating 

turquoise sea
       of bodies. The water drives a wedge
       of iron through the iron edge
              of the cliff; whereupon the stars, 

rice-grains, ink-
       bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
       lilies, and submarine
              toadstools, slide each on the other. 

       marks of abuse are present on this
       defiant edifice—
              all the physical features of

       of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
       hatchet strokes, these things stand
              out on it; the chasm-side is 

       evidence has proved that it can live
       on what can not revive
              its youth. The sea grows old in it.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Pigeon by Dan Chiasson

The Pigeon 

Once startled, you shall feel hours of weird sadness
     afterwards. This is known as the rule of the pigeon. 

This is the rule of the Herbert scholar: your head
      shall come to rest in a Ziploc terrarium, not a park. 

You shall be feted in the pages of New York magazine,
      and at department meetings, over eggnog, mourned. 

This is the rule of the girl you loved: you shall heave
     and heave all night, alone, and not from love, not 

from anything like love. Peel that mattress off your back,
     but peel you never will the remorse-stain, and

this is the rule of The Who, you shall be Muzak,
      you shall be orchestral, electronic and franchised. 

You shall be blood, is the rule of the sleepless night,
      and you shall be drained of blood, is the rule of dawn. 

The scholar and the pigeon shall inhabit the same street,
      your street, but you shall remember the pigeon longer.


Monday, November 27, 2017

A Furnace in My Father’s Voice; I Prayed for the Coal Stove’s by Ishion Hutchinson

A Furnace in My Father’s Voice; I Prayed for the Coal Stove’s

A furnace in my father’s voice; I prayed for the coal stove’s
roses, a cruise ship lit like a castle

on fire in the harbor we never walked,
father and son, father drifting down

the ferned hell his shanty shone, where,
inside, in my head, the lamp was the lamp.

The market, the park, the library not a soul
but grandmother’s morning wash lifting toward heaven,

the barrister sun punished my sister, I stared at my hand
in a book, the horizon declined in my mouth.

My little earthshaker, visored in placenta,
wonder of wonders, tremulous in amniotic

shield, ensouled already, father in the veritable
night, without house or harbor, 

soon sea in a voice will harrow
a scorpion’s blaze in me, to the marrow.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

On PrEP or on Prayer [“when i say pre-exposure prophylaxis”] by Sam Sax

On PrEP or on Prayer [“when i say pre-exposure prophylaxis”]

when i say pre-exposure prophylaxis

you think

easy fix. greek in origin. an act of guarding.
east of here a small temple.
inside parishioners strip nude
as armless statues, their stone
genitals hardening under a chemist’s glare.
the garden out front fecund & tended.
the garden inside bare.

when i say tenofovir disoproxil

you think

chemical names. saint names. names without origin.
an unpronounceable string of letters. the generic names
of petty angels. the drug’s molecular makeup applied in
& around the eyes & lips. the names of viruses & blind trials.
the kept-vial of love. the unknowable side effects of blood.

when i say oral emtricitabine

you think

once a day swallow a small sun
& all hymn in you comes undone

the way a lit match deads the smell
of a public bathroom

when i say nucleotide analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor

you think

thirsty epidemic
you push the blue pill through its foil

you know each new medicine trails
our dead behind it like wedding cans

you can hear them now can’t you?


Homage to Pessoa by Frederick Seidel

Homage to Pessoa
I once loved. 
I thought I would be loved.
But I wasn't loved.
I wasn't loved for the only reason that matters-
It was not to be.
I unbuttoned my white gloves and stripped each off.
I set aside my gold-knobbed cane. 
I picked up this pen...
And thought how many other men
Had smelled the rose in the bud vase
And lifted a fountain pen, 
And lifted a mountain...
And put the shotgun in their mouth, 
And noticed that their hunting dog was pointing.  


Friday, November 24, 2017

Maps by Yesenia Montilla


  For Marcelo

Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Some Clouds by Steve Kowit

Some Clouds

Now that I've unplugged the phone,
no one can reach me-
At least for this one afternoon
they will have to get by without my advice
or opinion.
Now nobody else is going to call
& ask in a tentative voice
if I haven't yet heard that she's dead,
that woman I once loved-
nothing but ashes scattered over a city
that barely itself any longer exists.
Yes, thank you, I've heard.
It had been too lovely a morning.
That in itself should have warned me.
The sun lit up the tangerines
& the blazing poinsettias
like so many candles.
For one afternoon they will have to forgive me.
I am busy watching things happen again
that happened a long time ago.
as I lean back in Josephine's lawnchair
under a sky of incredible blue,
broken - if that is the word for it – 
by a few billowing clouds,
all white & unspeakably lovely,
drifting out of one nothingness into another.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Magical Negro #80: Brooklyn by Morgan Parker

Magical Negro #80: Brooklyn

Here is the bright, young food co-op.
Here is the steeple. Here are the royals
not yet dead. Here are the Niggas With
Amethyst crystals. Shea butter
halos orbit half-shaved heads bowed
for vindication. Our mother patchouli
who art in the apothecary on Flatbush
hallowed be your Dutch wax dress.
Give us this day we light soy candles
for dead brothers. Give us this day we soak
our supremacy wounds.
Give us this day.
Give us fresh juice green
as avocados, and strength
to dismantle Fox news. We are marching
even in our sleep. We are reading
DuBois, getting high off the salt eaters.
Thy kingdom come to yoga. Thy will
be a black feminist Tumblr. Thy will is not
our struggle. Forgive us. We have gathered
to learn to pronounce freedom.
Procession body roll, communion oysters
with prosecco. Roses for our waist beads.
We have moved away from suburbia.
Now we live on Saturn.
We don’t pray anymore
the way our parents taught us.
Instead we stack our arms
with wood and music
hatches from our tongue rings.
Hymns for the dead, hookahs for
the almost-dead. Praise our half-lives.
Our bodies break but we still sage them.
We wrote the good book: instructions
for building new worlds.
Lead us not into white neighborhoods.
Deliver us from microaggressions.
Blessed are we who mourn, we who
are a blood built on a hill of embers.
We no mail-order hipster black wife.
We just trying to text our moms.
We are what we eat, leafy and anointed.
We are who we serve: banquets and bouquets
forever, foreverever, foreverever.


The Imagined by Stephen Dunn

The Imagined

If the imagined woman makes the real woman
seem bare-boned, hardly existent, lacking in
gracefulness and intellect and pulchritude,
and if you come to realize the imagined woman
can only satisfy your imagination, whereas
the real woman with all her limitations
can often make you feel good, how, in spite
of knowing this, does the imagined woman
keep getting into your bedroom, and joining you
at dinner, why is it that you always bring her along
on vacations when the real woman is shopping,
or figuring the best way to the museum?

And if the real woman
has an imagined man, as she must, someone
probably with her at this very moment, in fact
doing and saying everything she's ever wanted,
would you want to know that he slips in
to her life every day from a secret doorway
she's made for him, that he's present even when
you're eating your omelette at breakfast,
or do you prefer how she goes about the house
as she does, as if there were just the two of you?
Isn't her silence, finally, loving? And yours
not entirely self-serving? Hasn't the time come,
once again, not to talk about it?


Monday, November 20, 2017

Self-Portrait as Myself by Meghan O'Rourke

Self-Portrait as Myself
And now I, Meghan, have grown tired, have come
to the limits of my aesthetic fidelity. It is nearly summer,
and summer seems shorter to me
and winter longer and longer, as if life with
its inevitable accumulation of griefs
shifts time the way the myth said: casting a layer
of snow over all our losses. I want a daughter, but
the daughter I’ll never have I can’t imagine
more than I already have. I’d like to say,
these are the stories my mother read me,
and she is gone, and six decades
pass fast, so much faster than the mind absorbs
all the distorted love it feels for the world,
all the knowledge it accrues and wants to continue
to accrue, and in not being able to imagine her —
Stop. Stop here, and feel the light and the heat through
the window by my desk and remember the fields
I’ve stood in, the prickling of time at my leg,
the propeller planes hymning past, the daughter I lost
by not making her — the RNA, the tethered alleles,
the whorls of her fingers like the twisting
clouds above, the high and possible
voice I’ll never hear except within my secret ears. 


Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Weight by Linda Gregg

The Weight 
Two horses were put together in the same paddock. 
Night and day. In the night and in the day 
wet from heat and the chill of the wind 
on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging 
and the taste of bay in the shadowed air. 
The dignity of being. They slept that way, 
knowing each other always. 
Withers quivering for a moment, 
fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail, 
width of back. The volume of them, and each other’s weight. 
Fences were nothing compared to that. 
People were nothing. They slept standing, 
their throats curved against the other’s rump. 
They breathed against each other, 
whinnied and stomped. 
There are things they did that I do not know. 
The privacy of them had a river in it. 
Had our universe in it. And the way 
its border looks back at us with its light. 
This was finally their freedom. 
The freedom an oak tree knows. 
That is built at night by stars.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Have a Seat in the Abandoned Theater by Mahmoud Darwish

I Have a Seat in the Abandoned Theater

I have a seat in the abandoned theater
in Beirut. I might forget, and I might recall
the final act without longing ... not because of anything
other than that the play was not written
skillfully ...
as in the war days of those in despair, and an autobiography
of the spectators’ impulse. The actors were tearing up their scripts
and searching for the author among us, we the witnesses
sitting in our seats
I tell my neighbor the artist: Don’t draw your weapon,
and wait, unless you’re the author!
Then he asks me: And you are you the author?
So we sit scared. I say: Be a neutral
hero to escape from an obvious fate
He says: No hero dies revered in the second
scene. I will wait for the rest. Maybe I would
revise one of the acts. And maybe I would mend
what the iron has done to my brothers
So I say: It is you then?
He responds: You and I are two masked authors and two masked
I say: How is this my concern? I’m a spectator
He says: No spectators at chasm’s door ... and no
one is neutral here. And you must choose
your part in the end
So I say: I’m missing the beginning, what’s the beginning?

(Translated by Fady Joudah)


Indigo by Ellen Bass

As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive, a man runs
toward me pushing one of those jogging strollers
with shock absorbers so the baby can keep sleeping,
which this baby is. I can just get a glimpse
of its almost translucent eyelids. The father is young,
a jungle of indigo and carnelian tattooed
from knuckle to jaw, leafy vines and blossoms,
saints and symbols. Thick wooden plugs pierce
his lobes and his sunglasses testify
to the radiance haloed around him. I’m so jealous.
As I often am. It’s a kind of obsession.
I want him to have been my child’s father.
I want to have married a man who wanted
to be in a body, who wanted to live in it so much
that he marked it up like a book, underlining,
highlighting, writing in the margins, I was here.
Not like my dead ex-husband, who was always
fighting against the flesh, who sat for hours
on his zafu chanting om and then went out
and broke his hand punching the car.
I imagine when this galloping man gets home
he’s going to want to have sex with his wife,
who slept in late, and then he’ll eat
barbecued ribs and let the baby teethe on a bone
while he drinks a cold dark beer. I can’t stop
wishing my daughter had had a father like that.
I can’t stop wishing I’d had that life. Oh, I know
it’s a miracle to have a life. Any life at all.
It took eight years for my parents to conceive me.
First there was the war and then just waiting.
And my mother’s bones so narrow, she had to be slit
and I airlifted. That anyone is born,
each precarious success from sperm and egg
to zygote, embryo, infant, is a wonder.
And here I am, alive.
Almost seventy years and nothing has killed me.
Not the car I totalled running a stop sign
or the spirochete that screwed into my blood.
Not the tree that fell in the forest exactly
where I was standing—my best friend shoving me
backward so I fell on my ass as it crashed.
I’m alive.
And I gave birth to a child.
So she didn’t get a father who’d sling her
onto his shoulder. And so much else she didn’t get.
I’ve cried most of my life over that.
And now there’s everything that we can’t talk about.
We love—but cannot take
too much of each other.
Yet she is the one who, when I asked her to kill me
if I no longer had my mind—
we were on our way into Ross,
shopping for dresses. That’s something
she likes and they all look adorable on her—
she’s the only one
who didn’t hesitate or refuse
or waver or flinch.
As we strode across the parking lot
she said, O.K., but when’s the cutoff?
That’s what I need to know.