Sunday, January 21, 2018

Scavengers by Ocean Vuong


                              Your body wakes
into its quiet rattle.
                                         Ropes & ropes . . . 

                How quickly the animal
               We’re alone again
                           with spent mouths. 

Two trout gasping
                                      on a June shore.
Side by side, I see
                               what I came for, behind 

your iris: a tiny mirror.
                                                       I stare
into its silver syllable
                               where a fish with my face
twitches once
                  then gones. 

                                         The fisherman
                                                   suddenly a boy
with too much to carry.


Friday, January 19, 2018

After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childhood by Sharon Olds

After 37 Years My Mother Apologizes for My Childhood

When you tilted toward me, arms out
like someone trying to walk through a fire,
when you swayed toward me, crying out you were
sorry for what you had done to me, your
eyes filling with terrible liquid like
balls of mercury from a broken thermometer
skidding on the floor, when you quietly screamed
Where else could I turn? Who else did I have? The
chopped crockery of your hands swinging toward me, the
water cracking from your eyes like moisture from
stones under heavy pressure, I could not
see what I would do with the rest of my life.
The sky seemed to be splintering, like a window
someone is bursting into or out of, your
tiny face glittered as if with
shattered crystal, with true regret, the
regret of the body. I could not see what my
days would be, with you sorry, with
you wishing you had not done it, the
sky falling around me, its shards
glistening in my eyes, your old, soft
body fallen against me in horror I
took you in my arms, I said It’s all right,
don’t cry, it’s all right, the air filled with
flying glass, I hardly knew what I
said or who I would be now that I had forgiven you.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar by Danez Smith

The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar

this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.
bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew
this need to be needed, to belong, to know how
a man taste full on vodka & free of sin. i know not which god to pray to.
i look to christ, i look to every mouth on the dance floor, i order
a whiskey coke, name it the blood of my new savior. he is just.
he begs me to dance, to marvel men with the
of hips i brought, he deems my mouth in some stranger’s mouth necessary.
bless that man’s mouth, the song we sway sloppy to, the beat, the bridge, the length
of his hand on my thigh & back & i know not which country i am of.
i want to live on his tongue, build a home of gospel & gayety
i want to raise a city behind his teeth for all boys of choirs & closets to refuge in.
i want my new god to look at the mecca i built him & call it damn good
or maybe i’m just tipsy & free for the first time, willing to worship anything i can taste.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What Shines Does Not Always Need To by Adam Clay

What Shines Does Not Always Need To

Because today we did not leave this world,
We now embody a prominence within it,
Even amidst its indifference to our actions,
Whether they be noiseless or not.
After all, nonsense is its own type of silence,
Lasting as long as the snow on your
Tongue. You wonder why each evening
Must be filled with a turning away, eyes to the lines
Of the hardwood floor as if to regret the lack
Of movement in a single day, our callous hope
For another wish put to bed with the others in a slow
Single-file line. I used to be amazed at the weight
An ant could carry. I used to be surprised by
Survival. But now I know the mind can carry
Itself to the infinite power. Like the way snow
Covers trauma to the land below it, we only
Believe the narrative of what the eye can see.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Otherwise by Jane Kenyon


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Arrow by Beth Bachmann


I lived and died like an animal.
If death by arrow, death by feather,
death by sweet spot.
rise, red dog.
I see now what you’ve been sniffing:
What you’ve been licking:
all those bright, bright teeth.
You said, Angel.
I said, Anchor
dragging this body.
The way the sea is
the vein is.
The doctors advise,
Too late now;
you’ve got to live
with it in you.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Harlem by Langston Hughes


What happens to a dream deferred?

     Does it dry up
     Like a raisin in the sun?
     Or fester like a sore--
     And then run?
     Does it stink like rotten meat?
     Or crust and sugar over--
     like a syrupy sweet?

     Maybe it just sags
     like a heavy load.

     Or does it explode? 


O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

“More Light! More Light!” by Anthony Hecht

“More Light! More Light!”

Composed in the Tower before his execution
These moving verses, and being brought at that time
Painfully to the stake, submitted, declaring thus:
"I implore my God to witness that I have made no crime."

Nor was he forsaken of courage, but the death was horrible,
The sack of gunpowder failing to ignite.
His legs were blistered sticks on which the black sap
Bubbled and burst as he howled for the Kindly Light.

And that was but one, and by no means one of he worst;
Permitted at least his pitiful dignity;
And such as were by made prayers in the name of Christ,
That shall judge all men, for his soul's tranquility.

We move now to outside a German wood.
Three men are there commanded to dig a hole
In which the two Jews are ordered to lie down
And be buried alive by the third, who is a Pole.

Not light from the shrine at Weimar beyond the hill
Nor light from heaven appeared. But he did refuse.
A Luger settled back deeply in its glove.
He was ordered to change places with the Jews.

Much casual death had drained away their souls.
The thick dirt mounted toward the quivering chin.
When only the head was exposed the order came
To dig him out again and to get back in.

No light, no light in the blue Polish eye.
When he finished a riding boot packed down the earth.
The Luger hovered lightly in its glove.
He was shot in the belly and in three hours bled to death.

No prayers or incense rose up in those hours
Which grew to be years, and every day came mute
Ghosts from the ovens, sifting through crisp air,
And settled upon his eyes in a black soot.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Yangtze by Sarah Howe


The moon glimmers
in the brown channel.
Strands of mist
wrap the mountainsides
crowded with firs.

Declining cliffs
sink beneath vast water.
By remote paths,
twisting pines.

Far downstream
two sides
of a half-built bridge
fail to meet.
Our crude boat
points to Chongqing.
As someone I now forget
once said
journeying is hard.

My face greets
the evening breeze
I listen –
the dream of a place.

A cormorant dives
by trembling light.
From the white
eyelet of a star
the sound of ripples.


A fisherman
skirting shore
in his high-prowed skiff
crossing bamboo oars
comes up with a jolt –
nets catch not fish
but the wizened finger
of a submerged branch
for below
a sunken valley persists –

slick bare trunks
furred in wafting fronds
have water for sky,
ghost forest.
Roots rot deep in the hill
where buried rock
is still dry.

Windows film,
doors drift open
in the empty concrete
shells of houses
towns that once
held hundreds
of thousands
slowly filling with
what, what is it
they fill with?

Someone I now forget
once said
journeying is hard.
The moon glimmers
in the brown channel.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

These Hands, If Not Gods by Natalie Diaz

These Hands, If Not Gods

Haven’t they moved like rivers—
like Glory, like light—
over the seven days of your body?

And wasn’t that good?
Them at your hips—

isn’t this what God felt when he pressed together
the first Beloved: Everything.
Fever. Vapor. Atman. Pulsus. Finally,
a sin worth hurting for. Finally, a sweet, a
You are mine.

It is hard not to have faith in this:
from the blue-brown clay of night
these two potters crushed and smoothed you
into being—grind, then curve—built your form up—

atlas of bone, fields of muscle,
one breast a fig tree, the other a nightingale,
both Morning and Evening.

O, the beautiful making they do—
of trigger and carve, suffering and stars—

Aren’t they, too, the dark carpenters
of your small church? Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?

Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?

And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names—

Zahir, Aleph, Hands-time-seven,
Sphinx, Leonids, locomotura,
Rubidium, August, and September—
And when you cried out, O, Prometheans,
didn’t they bring fire?

These hands, if not gods, then why
when you have come to me, and I have returned you
to that from which you came—bright mud, mineral-salt—
why then do you whisper O, my Hecatonchire. My Centimani.
My hundred-handed one?


Monday, January 8, 2018

Four Sandwiches by Martín Espada

Four Sandwiches

     —Washington, D.C.

JC was called the Rack   
at the work farm,   
aluminum milk pails   
dangling from his hands.   
Once a sudden fist 
crushed the cartilage of nose 
across his face, 
but JC only grinned, 
and the man with the fist   
stumbled away. 

JC sings his work farm songs on the street,   
swaying with black overcoat and guitar,   
cigarettes cheaper than food. 
But today he promises 
four sandwiches, two for each of us. 

The landlady, a Rumanian widow, 
has nailed a death mask   
over JC’s bed, 
sleeping plaster face   
of a drowned girl 
peaceful in the dark. 

As the girl contemplates water   
and pigeons batter the window,   
JC spreads the last deviled ham   
on two slices of bread, 
presses them together, 
then slowly tears four pieces. 

“Here,” he almost sings,   
“four sandwiches.”


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Dream-Clung, Gone by Lauren Russell

Dream-Clung, Gone
Undertow of dive bar juke unboxed
Driving past a rust-red door unjambed
Coin-operated groove side-shimmies, unflung
A seamlessly upholstered stool’s unwound
Once I fell in love with an Absence. It outgrew the apartment and wouldn’t take off its clothes. After we moved it turned taut and slinky, hid in shadows or slid provo-catively beneath my coat. Three winters now and the Absence is restless. It’s blown across the river, arrives late when it meets me for beer. The Absence is singing:
This is the song of a dawned dance
This is the dance of a dusk-drawn song
This is the fall of a moaned trance
This is the clang of a dream-clung gong


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Whirl by Tomaž Šalamun


The word NORMAL imprints itself
inside the crypt and frightens

Glagolitic priests. I open the wall.
I sit on

the grass. I lean against
the wall. White lumps of lye,

what do you want? My eyes are
safe. The wall is a

mogul’s wall. No connection between a dolphin
in the air and a dolphin in

water. Those three drops are betrayal.
The moon is not a round pontoon,

it’s not. It’s not a piece of mantra in a little notebook.
I’m leaning on honey.

(Translated by Jeffrey Young and Katarina Vladimirov Young)


Friday, January 5, 2018

Snow by Frederick Seidel


Snow is what it does.
It falls and it stays and it goes.
It melts and it is here somewhere.
We all will get there. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Spoken For by Li-Young Lee

Spoken For
I didn’t know I was blue,
until I heard her sing. 
I was never aware so much
had been lost
even before I was born.
There was so much to lose
even before I knew
what it meant to choose. 
Born blue,
living blue unconfessed, blue
in concealment, I’ve lived all my life
at the plinth
of greater things than me. 
Morning is greater
with its firstborn light and birdsong.
Noon is taller, though a moment’s realm.
Evening is ancient and immense, and
night’s storied house more huge. 
But I had no idea.
And would have died without a clue,
except she began to sing. And I understood 
my soul is a bride enthralled by an unmet groom,
or else the groom wholly spoken for, blue
in ardor, happy in eternal waiting. 
I heard her sing and knew
I would never hear the true 
name of each thing
until I realized the abysmal
ground of all things. Her singing
touched that ground in me. 
Now, dying of my life, everything is made new.
Now, my life is not my life. I have no life
apart from all of life. 
And my death is not my death,
but a pillow beneath my head, a rock
propping the window open
to admit the jasmine. 
I heard her sing,
and I’m no longer afraid.
Now that I know what she knows, I hope
never to forget
how giant the gone
and immaculate the going.
How much I’ve already lost.
How much I go on losing.
How much I’ve lived
all one blue. O, how much
I go on living. 


Hunter by Phillip B. Williams


            When you were mine though not
mine at all permanently, just a body borrowed
without permission, a body interrupted,

                           the sky opened like a secret in a mouth

mouth with a word in it
word with an arrowhead in its flank: Love, small
creature it was
                                     crying in the night beneath me


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Broom by Deborah Digges


More than my sixteen rented houses and their eighty or so rooms
held up by stone or cinderblock foundations,
most facing north, with useless basements,
wrought iron fences to the curb,
beat-up black mailboxes—
eagles impaled through breasts to edifice—
or set like lighthouses
some distance from the stoop a thousand miles inland,

or close enough to sea the sea gulls
settled mornings in the playing fields I passed
on this continent and others
as I walked my sons to school or to the train—

more than the kitchen door frames where is carved the progress
of their growth, one then the other on his birthday
backed against a wall, almost on tiptoe—

and more than the ruler
I have laid across their skulls
where the older's brown hair like my own,
or the younger's blond like his father's, covered abundantly
what was once only a swatch of scalp
I'd touch as they slept to know their hearts beat—

more than the height at which, and in this house,
the markings stopped like stairs leading to ground level,
and they walked out into the world,
dogged, no doubt, by the ghost of the man, their father,
and the men who tried to be their fathers,
father their wildness—

and more, even, than the high sashed windows
and windows sliding sideways
through which I watched for them, sometimes squinting,
sometimes through my hands cupped on cold glass
trying to see in the dark my men approaching,
my breath blinding me,
the first born surely the man I would have married,
the second, me in his man's body—

more than the locks left open and the creaking steps,
the books left open like mirrors on the floor
and the sinks where we washed our faces
and the beds above which our threefold dreams collided,

I have loved the broom I took into my hands
and crossed the threshold to begin again,
whose straw I wore to nothing,
whose shaft I could use to straighten a tree, or break
across my knee to kindle the first winter fire,
or use to stir the fire,

broom whose stave is pine or hickory,
and whose skirt of birch-spray and heather
offers itself up as nest matter,
arcs like the equator
in the corner, could we see far enough,
or is parted one way like my hair.

Once I asked myself, when was I happy?
I was looking at a February sky.
When did the light hold me and I didn't struggle?
And it came to me, an image
of myself in a doorway, a broom in my hand,
sweeping out beach sand, salt, soot,
pollen and pine needles, the last December leaves,
and mud wasps, moths, flies crushed to wafers,
and spring's first seed husks,
and then the final tufts like down, and red bud petals
like autumn leaves—so many petals—

sweeping out the soil the boys tracked in
from burying in the new yard another animal—
broom leaving in tact the spiders' webs,
careful of those,
and careful when I danced with the broom,
that no one was watching,
and when I hacked at the floor
with the broom like an axe, jammed handle through glass
as if the house were burning and I must abandon ship
as I wept over a man s faithlessness, or wept over my own—

and so the broom became
an oar that parted waters, raft-keel and mast, or twirled
around and around on the back lawn,
a sort of compass through whose blurred counter-motion
the woods became a gathering of brooms,
onlooking or ancestral.

I thought I could grow old here,
safe among the ghosts, each welcomed,
yes, welcomed back for once, into this house, these rooms

in which I have got down on hands and knees and swept my hair
across my two sons' broad tan backs,
and swept my hair across you, swinging my head,
lost in the motion,
lost swaying up and down the whole length of your body,
my hair tangling in your hair,
our hair matted with sweat and my own cum, and semen,
lost swaying, smelling you,
smelling you humming,
gone in the motion, back and forth, sweeping.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Pear Tree by H. D.

Pear Tree

Silver dust   
lifted from the earth,   
higher than my arms reach,   
you have mounted.   
O silver,
higher than my arms reach   
you front us with great mass;       

no flower ever opened   
so staunch a white leaf,   
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;       

O white pear,   
your flower-tufts,   
thick on the branch,   
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.