Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Red Poppy by Louise Glück

The Red Poppy

The great thing
is not having 
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they 
govern me. I have 
a lord in heaven 
called the sun, and open 
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire 
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters, 
were you like me once, long ago, 
before you were human? Did you 
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never 
open again? Because in truth 
I am speaking now 
the way you do. I speak 
because I am shattered.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Eyes Fastened With Pins by Charles Simić

Eyes Fastened With Pins
How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in. The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death's laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death's supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address somehow wrong,
Even death can't figure it out
Among all the locked doors . . .
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death's side of the bed. 


Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Sacrifice by Frank Bidart

The Sacrifice

When Judas writes the history of SOLITUDE,—
… let him celebrate

Miss Mary Kenwood; who, without
help, placed her head in a plastic bag,

then locked herself
in a refrigerator.


—Six months earlier, after thirty years
teaching piano, she had watched

her mother slowly die of throat cancer.
Watched her want to die…

What once had given Mary life
in the end didn’t want it.

Awake, her mother screamed for help to die.
—She felt

GUILTY… She knew that all men in these situations felt
innocent—; helpless—; yet guilty.


Christ knew the Secret. Betrayal
is necessary; as is woe for the betrayer.

The solution, Mary realized at last,
must be brought out of my own body.

Wiping away our sins, Christ stained us with his blood—;
to offer yourself, yet need betrayal, by Judas, before SHOULDERING

Give me the courage not to need Judas.

When Judas writes the history of solitude,
let him record

that to the friend who opened
the refrigerator, it seemed

death fought; before giving in. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Syria by Lawrence Joseph

And when, then, the imagination is transmogrified
in circles of hatred, circles of vengeance
and killing, of stealing and deceit? Behind
the global imperia is the interrogation cell. It’s not
a good story. Neither the Red Crescent
nor journalists are permitted entry, the women tell
how men and boys are separated, taken in buses
and never seen again, tanks in the streets
with machine guns with no shells in the barrels
because the army fears that those who will use them
might defect. Who knows what has happened,
what is happening, what will happen? God knows.
God knows everything. The boy? He is much more
than Mafia; he, and his, own the country. His militias
will fight to the death if for no other reason than
if he’s overthrown they will be killed, too. “Iraq,
you remember Iraq, don’t you?” she shouts,
a refugee. Her English is good. Reached via Skype,
she speaks anonymously, afraid of repercussions.
“You won’t believe what I have seen”—her voice
lowered almost to a whisper—“a decapitated 
body with a dog’s head sewn on it, for example.”
Yes, I know, it’s much more complicated than that.
“It’s the arena right now where the major players are,”
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs concludes
his exclusive CNN interview. Dagestan—its province
in the North Caucasus—is what the Russians compare
it to, warring clans, sects; Lebanese-like civil war
will break out and spread across the region. Online,
a report—Beirut, the Associated Press—
this morning, “28 minutes ago. 4 Said to Be Dead
at Syrian University,” one Samer Qawass,
thrown, it is said, by pro-regime students
out of the fifth-floor window of his dormitory room,
dying instantly from the fall. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Epistemology by Catherine Barnett

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord 
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle, 
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate, 
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing. 
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love. 
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect 
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches. 


Monday, September 3, 2018

Cocktails with Orpheus by Terrance Hayes

Cocktails with Orpheus

After dark, the bar full of women part of me loves—the part that stood 
naked outside the window of Miss Geneva, recent divorcée who owned 
a gun, O Miss Geneva where are you now—Orpheus says she did 

not perish, she was not turned to ash in the brutal light, she found 
a good job, she made good money, she had her own insurance and 
a house, she was a decent wife. I know descent lives in the word 

decent. The bar noise makes a kind of silence. When Orpheus hands 
me his sunglasses, I see how fire changes everything. In the mind 
I am behind a woman whose skirt is hiked above her hips, as bound 

as touch permits, saying don't forget me when I become the liquid 
out of which names are born, salt-milk, milk-sweet and animal-made. 

I want to be a human above the body, uprooted and right, a fold 
of pleas released, but I am a black wound, what's left of the deed.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Mock Orange by Louise Glück

Mock Orange

It is not the moon, I tell you.
It is these flowers
lighting the yard.

I hate them.
I hate them as I hate sex,
the man’s mouth
sealing my mouth, the man’s
paralyzing body—

and the cry that always escapes,
the low, humiliating
premise of union—

In my mind tonight
I hear the question and pursuing answer
fused in one sound
that mounts and mounts and then
is split into the old selves,
the tired antagonisms. Do you see?
We were made fools of.
And the scent of mock orange
drifts through the window.

How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?


Saturday, September 1, 2018

All by Jorie Graham

After the rain stops you can hear the rained-on.
You hear oscillation, outflowing, slips.
The tipping-down of the branches, the down, the
exact weight of those drops that fell
over the days and nights, their strength, accumulation,
shafting down through the resistant skins,
nothing perfect but then also the exact remain
of sun, the sum
of the last not-yet-absorbed, not-yet-evaporated
days. After the rain stops you hear the
washed world, the as-if inquisitive garden, the as-if-perfect beginning again
of the buds forced open, forced open – you
cannot not unfurl
endlessly, entirely, till it is the yes of blossom, that end
not end – what does that sound sound like
deep in its own time where it roots us out
completed, till it is done. But it is not done.
Here is still strengthening. Even if only where light
shifts to accord the strange complexity which is beauty.
Each tip in the light end-outreaching as if anxious
but not. The rain stopped. The perfect is not beauty.
Is not a finished thing. Is a making
of itself into more of itself, oozing and pressed
full force out of the not-having-been
into this momentary being – cold, more
sharp, till the beam passes as the rain passed,
tipping into the sound of ending which does not end,
and giving us that sound. We hear it.
We hear it, hands
useless, eyes heavy with knowing we do not
understand it, we hear it, keep in its own
consuming, compelling, a dry delight, a just-going-on sound not
desire, neither lifeless nor deathless, the elixir of
change, without form, we hear you in our world, you not
of our world, though we can peer at (though not into)
flies, gnats, robin, twitter of what dark consolation –
though it could be light, this insistence this morning
unmonitored by praise, amazement, nothing to touch
where the blinding white thins as the flash moves off
what had been just the wide-flung yellow poppy,
the fine day-opened eye of hair at its core,
complex, wrinkling and just, and then the blazing ends, sloughed off as if a
god-garment the head and body
of the ancient flower had put on for a while –
we have to consider the while it seems
to say or I seem to say or
something else seems to we are not


Orpheus and Eurydice by Czesław Miłosz

Orpheus and Eurydice

Standing on flagstones of the sidewalk at the entrance to Hades
Orpheus hunched in a gust of wind
That tore at his coat, rolled past in waves of fog,
Tossed the leaves of the trees. The headlights of cars
Flared and dimmed in each succeeding wave.

He stopped at the glass-paneled door, uncertain
Whether he was strong enough for the ultimate trial.

He remembered her words: “You are a good man.”
He did not quite believe it. Lyric poets
Usually have – he knew it – cold hearts.
It is like a medical condition. Perfection in art
Is given in exchange for such an affliction.

Only her love warmed him, humanized him.
When e was with her, he thought differently about himself.
He could not fail her now, when she was dead.

He pushed open the door and found himself walking in a labyrinth,
Corridors, elevators. The livid light was not light but the dark of the earth.
Electronic dogs passed him noiselessly.
He descended many floors, a hundred, three hundred, down.

He was cold, aware that he was Nowhere.
Under thousands of frozen centuries,
On an ashy trace where generations had moldered,
In a kingdom that seemed to have no bottom and no end.

Thronging shadows surrounded him.
He recognized some of the faces.
He felt the rhythm of his blood.
He felt strongly his life with its guilt
And he was afraid to meet those to whom he had done harm.
But they had lost the ability to remember
And gave him only a glance, indifferent to all that.

For his defense he had a nine-stringed lyre.
He carried in it the music of the earth, against the abyss
That buries all the sounds in silence.
He submitted to the music, yielded
To the dictations of a song, listening with rapt attention,
Became, like his lyre, its instrument.

Thus he arrived at the palace of the rulers of that land.
Persephone, in her garden of withered pear and apple trees,
Black, with naked branches and verrucose twigs,
Listened from the funereal amethyst of her throne.

He sang the brightness of mornings and green rivers,
He sang of smoking water in the rose-colored daybreaks,
Of colors: cinnabar, carmine, burnt sienna, blue,
Of the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs,
Of feasting on a terrace above the tumult of a fishing port,
Of the tastes of wine, olive oil, almonds, mustard, salt.
Of the flight of the swallow, the falcon,
Of a dignified flock of pelicans above a bay,
Of the scent of an armful of lilacs in summer rain,
Of his having composed his words always against death
And of having made no rhyme in praise of nothingness.

I don’t know – said the goddess – whether you loved her or not.
Yet you have come here to rescue her.
She will be returned to you. But there are conditions:
You are not permitted to speak to her, or on the journey back
To turn your head, even once, to assure yourself that she is behind you.

And so Hermes brought forth Eurydice.
Her face no longer hers, utterly gray,
Her eyelids lowered beneath the shade of her lashes.
She stepped rigidly, directed by the hand
Of her guide. Orpheus wanted so much
To call her name, to wake her from that sleep.
But he refrained, for he had accepted the conditions.

And so they set out. He first, and then, not right away,
The slap of the god’s sandals and the light patter
Of her feet fettered by her robe, as if by a shroud.
A steep climbing path phosphorized
Out of darkness like the walls of a tunnel.
He would stop and listen. But then
They stopped, too, and the echo faded.
And when he began to walk the double tapping commenced again.
Sometimes it seemed closer, sometimes more distant.
Under his faith a doubt sprang up
And entwined him like cold bindweed.
Unable to weep, he wept a the loss
Of the human hope for the resurrection of the dead,
Because he was, now, like every other mortal.
His lyre was silent, yet he dreamed, defenseless.
He knew he must have faith and he could not have faith.
And so he would persist for a very long time,
Counting his steps in a half-wakeful torpor.

Day was breaking. Shapes of rock loomed up
Under the luminous eye of the exit from underground.
It happened as he expected. He turned his head
And behind him on the path was no one.

Sun. And sky. And in the sky white clouds.
Only now everything cried to him: Eurydice!
How will I live without you, my consoling one!
But there was a fragrant scent of herbs, the low humming of bees,
And he fell asleep with his cheek on the sun-warmed earth.

(Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Haas)