Thursday, May 31, 2018

The God and the Goat by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

The God and the Goat

And then the goat said to the God, 
Deliver me my skin. And He 
Did. Then the goat said to the God, 
Anoint me in my skin again. 
—And He did. Then the goat said 
To the God, Seal me in my skin. 
And He did—. He salved the seams. 
And subtled him. And Himself, too. 
Call it unrecognizable 
Weather: boiling snow sidling 
Gilt cloudbanks; a beetle-back sky; 
Nacre-gnarled écorchés of ought 
And nought air; all caught in the thought 
That we were the God and the goat, 
Once strangers, now just strange, and bound 
By the songs of Heaven and wound 
That wing out from our one shared throat.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Free Dirt by Henri Cole

Free Dirt

My house is mine:
the choice of menu, 
the radio and television, 
the unpolished floors, 
the rumpled sheets.

It’s like being inside
a rolltop desk. I have
no maid who takes care
of me. Sometimes, 
during breakfast,

I speak French with
a taxidermied wren. 
There is no debt
between us. We listen
to language tapes:

Viens-tu du ciel profond (Baudelaire)? 
Always, I hear a little oratorio
inside my head. Moths
have carried away my carpets, 
like invisible pallbearers.

I like invisibleness, 
except in the moon’s strong, 
broad rays. Some nights, 
I ask her paleness, Will I be okay? 
I am weak and fruitless at night,

like a piece of meat with eyes, 
but in the morning optimistic again, 
like a snowflake that has traveled
many miles and many years
to be admired on the kitchen pane.

Alone, I guzzle
and litter and urinate
and shout. Please do not
wake me from this dream, 
making meals from discrete

objects—a sweet potato, 
a jar of marmalade, 
a bottle of sauvignon blanc. 
Today, I saw a sign
in majuscule for FREE DIRT

and thought, We all have
chapters we’d rather keep
unpublished, in which we
get down with the swirl. 
The little wren perched on my

finger weighs almost nothing, 
just nails and beak. But it
gives me tiny moments—
here at my kitchen table—
like a diaphanous chorus

mewling something
about love, or the haze
of love, a haze that makes
me squint-eyed and sick
if I think too much about it.

What am I but this flensed
syntax, sight and sound, 
in which my heart, not
insulated yet, makes
ripple effects down the line?


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

King of Kreations by Angel Nafis

King of Kreations

Onliest man who lay hands on me. Pointer finger pad between my
Pinky knuckle cool on cheekbone. God of precision, blade at my

for a half hour, you love me this way. Together we discover what I
from my folks—widows peak, dandruff, hair growing fast in
       concentric O’s.  

Claude, so damn beautiful, I can count on one hand the times I’ve
directly in your face, for fear I might never come back. You
       knower of me.  

To get right I come to you. When I’m finna interview. When I’m
       finna banquet   
or party. When I must stunt, I come to you—  

It is mostly you, but, not always. After all you gotta eat too.
So sometimes it’s Percival, face like stones, except when he’s
Sometimes it’s Junior who sings the whole time he lines up the

No matter how soft my body           or how many eyes find it and peel
               when I walk in the shop                in the chair, I am of them.
                               Not brother. Not sister.              When he wields
       the razor and takes me
                                              low it’s like when a woman gets close to
       the mirror to slide the lipstick
                                                          on slow. Draws a line so perfect
       she cuts her own self from the clay. 


Monday, May 28, 2018

Public Toilets in Regent’s Park by Richard Scott

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The Death of a Soldier by Wallace Stevens

The Death of a Soldier

Life contracts and death is expected,
As in a season of autumn.
The soldier falls.

He does not become a three-days personage,
Imposing his separation,
Calling for pomp.

Death is absolute and without memorial,
As in a season of autumn,
When the wind stops,

When the wind stops and, over the heavens,
The clouds go, nevertheless,
In their direction.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Crossing into Canaan by D. A. Powell

Crossing into Canaan

Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me—Daniel 10:18

febrile body I woke into: nightsweats, stink of the toil of living: 

where hands could not bear to approach me, the young man fingered 

lay upon me, was himself a cool sponge, drew my perspiration to his lips 
ice-chips he held in his teeth, he pushed small bergs into my mouth 

caressed the skeletal arms I’ve hidden in long sleeves 
kissed neck and chest, belly rotten with pudgy organs, thick-set flesh 

he pressed against me, cock on cock and tongue against tongue 
saw his reflection in my marshy eyes and did not flinch such weakness 

held, sustained by this capable stroke, boatswain of my crossing 

I take the death I’m moored to, announced as a measureless promontory 
and bob in the river like a bloated corpse, blue lips, vacant gaze 

I let the water fill my lungs until they rip their festive piñatas 
because the one who comes to gather me, capricious angel 

has a voice that affirms me rising when this fever abates 


Friday, May 25, 2018

Daystar by Rita Dove


She wanted a little room for thinking: 
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage 
to sit out the children’s naps.

Sometimes there were things to watch: 
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days 
she stared until she was assured 
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her vivid own blood.

She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared 
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing 
out back with the field mice? Why, 
building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and 
lurched into her, she would open her eyes 
and think of the place that was hers 
for an hour — where 
she was nothing, 
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Epidermal Macabre by Theodore Roethke

Epidermal Macabre

Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, --
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood's obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accouterments of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Southern Gothic by Rickey Laurentiis

Southern Gothic 

About the dead having available to them
all breeds of knowledge,
some pure, others wicked, especially what is
future, and the history that remains 
once the waters recede, revealing the land 
that couldn’t reject or contain it, and the land 
that is not new, is indigo, is ancient, lived 
as all the trees that fit and clothe it are lived, 
simple pine, oak, grand magnolia, he said 
they frighten him, that what they hold in their silences 
silences: sometimes a boy will slip 
from his climbing, drown but the myth knows why,
sometimes a boy will swing with the leaves.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

February by Jim Harrison


Warm enough here in Patagonia AZ to read
the new Mandelstam outside in my underpants
which is to say he was never warm enough
except in summer and he was without paper to write
and his belly was mostly empty most of the time
like that Mexican girl I picked up on a mountain road
the other day who couldn’t stop weeping. She had slept
out two nights in a sweater in below-freezing weather.
She had been headed to Los Angeles but the coyote
took her money and abandoned her in the wilderness.
Her shoes were in pieces and her feet bleeding.
I took her to town and bought her food. She got a ride
to Nogales. She told us in Spanish that she just wanted
to go home and sleep in her own bed. That’s what Mandelstam
wanted with mother in the kitchen fixing dinner. Everyone
wants this. Mandelstam said, “To be alone is to be alive.”
“Lost and looked in the sky’s asylum eye.” “What of
her nights?” Maybe she was watched by some of the fifty
or so birds I have in the yard now. When they want to
they just fly away. I gave them my yard and lots of food.
They smile strange bird smiles. She couldn’t fly away.
Neither can I though I’ve tried a lot lately to migrate
to the Camargue on my own wings. When they are married,
Mandelstam and the Mexican girl, in heaven they’ll tell
long stories of the horrors of life on earth ending each session
by chanting his beautiful poems that we did not deserve.


Origin Story by Jenny Xie

Origin Story

I was profligate like a floodlight to the sun.

Hoarded saccharine and toothmarks,
wanted only the thickest rhymes, two of each.

Full I was of promises I never intended to keep:
puckered laughter, lines to feast.

I let everyone who entered my life enter through me.
Demanded nonsense love and bodies that would ring.

Not to mention higher kilowatts
of creeping joy, more red in everything—


Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Gift by Li-Young Lee

The Gift
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

4 1/2 by Tracy K. Smith

4 1/2

Morning finds her curled like a prawn
Around a stuffed blue Pegasus, or the smallest
Prawn-pink lion. Or else she's barging
Into my room, and leaning in close so
It's her hair I wake to—that coarse, dark
Heaven of knots and purple fluff. And
She's hungry, but first she has to pee—
"Pee! Pee!" she sings, hopping in place, trying
To staunch off the wild ravenous river
She carries, until I'm awake for real, saying
"Go! Go! Hurry before you wet the floor!"
And then she tries, and succeeds, or else stands
Bereft, relieved, as a pool trickles out
Around her feet. She's like an island
Made of rock, with one lone tree at the top
Of the only mountain. She's like the sole
Incongruous goat tethered to the tree,
Smiling almost as you approach, scraping
The ground with its horns, and then—
Lickety split—lurching hard, daring
The rope to snap. She's hungry. She wants
"Bread, toasted, with no skin." And enough butter
To write her name in. Or a bowl of cereal ("But
Not the noisy kind"). She wants a movie, or maybe
Just the tussle of her will against mine,
That scrape and crack. Horn on rock. Rope
Relenting one fiber at a time. "I want that," she says,
Punctuating what she just said she wanted.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Explorers Cry Out Unheard by Marie Ponsot

Explorers Cry Out Unheard 

What I have in mind is the last wilderness. 

I sweat to learn its heights of sun, scrub, ants,
its gashes full of shadows and odd plants,
as inch by inch it yields to my hard press. 

And the way behind me changes as I advance.
If interdependence shapes the biomass,
though I plot my next step by pure chance
I can’t go wrong. Even willful deviance
connects me to all the rest. The changing past
includes and can’t excerpt me. Memory grants
just the nothing it knows, & my distress
drives me toward the imagined truths I stalk,
those savages. Warned by their haunting talk,
their gestures, I guess they mean no. Or yes. 


Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Father No Longer Knows Me by Adam Zagajewski

My Father No Longer Knows Me
My father no longer knows me. Not even
those sparks of consciousness
that cheered us not so long ago.
He lies submerged in darkness, sleeps, dozes,
as if he’d already taken leave.
There are still the brief moments, though,
when his real face is revealed.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

As You Never Bothered to Return My Call by August Kleinzahler

As You Never Bothered to Return My Call

What I had wanted was to be chaste,
sober and uncomfortable
for a sprawling episode on a beach somewhere
dirty, perennially out of fashion;
let the smell of cocoa butter drive deep memory wild
as the sun went down, a parti-colored blur,
examined through a bottle of pop
some kid gave up on only half-way through
and left to go warm in the sand.

The train ride would be long and hot,
and you, you’ve had it with men.
Me . . .
        I’m sickened by the pronoun.
Tenderness seems as far away as Sioux City
and besides, it would have cost too much.
But you should have called,

if only since a preposterous little episode like this
is just the stuff to scare off extra friends,
like soaking their laps with corrosive fizz.
And us . . .
              What an impertinence, us.
We could have played gin rummy and taken a stroll
into town or along the boardwalk, maybe,
                                      with dear old Godzilla,
the first one, the best one, the 1954 one,
reprising his role this one last time, raising himself up
over the horizon at dusk,
and hurrying us to a place we never would have
dreamt of


Nothing’s a Gift by Wisława Szymborska

Nothing’s a Gift
Nothing’s a gift, it’s all on loan.
I’m drowning in debts up to my ears.
I’ll have to pay for myself
with my self,
give up my life for my life.
Here’s how it’s arranged:
The heart can be repossessed,
the liver, too,
and each single finger and toe.
Too late to tear up the terms,
my debts will be repaid,
and I’ll be fleeced,
or, more precisely, flayed.
I move about the planet
in a crush of other debtors.
Some are saddled with the burden
of paying off their wings.
Others must, willy-nilly,
account for every leaf.
Every tissue in us lies
on the debit side.
Not a tentacle or tendril
is for keeps.
The inventory, infinitely detailed,
implies we’ll be left
not just empty-handed
but handless, too.
I can’t remember
where, when, and why
I let someone open
this account in my name.
We call the protest against this
the soul.
And it’s the only item
not included on the list.

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh)