Wednesday, February 20, 2019

U-District Incident Report by Heather McHugh

U-District Incident Report

Apparently they want your body parts. They frisk you for 

Your handset, earbud, bluetooth, cellphone, iPad, thumb drive, memory stick 

And laptop.    You won’t need any of it soon.    Give them  

The finger too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Custom by Carl Phillips


There is a difference it used to make,
seeing three swans in this versus four in that
quadrant of sky. I am not imagining. It was very large, as its
effects were. Declarations of war, the timing fixed upon for a sea-
             departure; or,
about love, a sudden decision not to, to pretend instead to a kind
of choice. It was dramatic, as it should be. Without drama,
what is ritual? I look for omens everywhere, because they are everywhere
to be found. They come to me like strays, like the damaged,
something that could know better, and should, therefore—but does not:
a form of faith, you've said. I call it sacrifice—an instinct for it, or a habit
             at first, that
becomes required, the way art can become, eventually, all we have
of what was true. You shouldn't look at me like that. Like one of those
on whom the birds once settled freely

Monday, February 18, 2019

Snail, or, To a House by Aracelis Girmay

Snail, or, To a House

I can not say what was on the bed the day we left
& if the blinds were drawn over the windows.
How does one hold
a whole live house
in a brain?

But there were bowls, & glass,
cereals in the pantry, cloves, folded

Back then
the snails gathered at the water hose, their feelers
prodding alien in the dusky afternoon, summer of wasps
with their mud cities
hanging down.

The pots caught drops & drops of rain
while gardens grew for morning, out in back.

Our house, that house & nation of beams
all crossed with wooden light above the people,
I loved you.

& it is only love to see you
obese in this new city
following me on the train & at the job.

Forgive me then, I did not even look twice,
or good & hard like in a mirror.
I could not even know
that we were leaving.

The story goes: it was the best thing
to leave you & the king,
to have start-
            all over with
only those things

we carried on
            our backs.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Big Loser by Max Ritvo

The Big Loser

The guardian angel sits in the tree
above the black lip of street
the man walks down.
He calls the man Cargo.

The angel sees a pinewood box in place of the man,
and the street he walks is a boat,
the hull like a coal crater.

Somewhere in the real world there is such a boat and box.

The angels call these overlays dreams,
and believe they crop up because angels
can’t sleep but want to — 

space falls apart when you have unlimited time.

The cargo is rattling in the boat.
Maybe it’s just the waves, maybe it’s rats.
What’s the difference? Either way: it’s the box.

The angel sends the man
a happy vision from his past — the time

he fed birthday cake
to his goldfish
after an unsuccessful party.

The angel thinks he’s applying lemon oil
to the creaky, wounded wood of the box.
He knows it’s palliative, but it’s beautiful.

The man reaches the end of the street. He’s a sick man
and he starts to ponder death
as he often does these days:

All of death is right here
— the gods, the dark, a moon.
Where was I expecting death
to take me if everywhere it is
is on earth?

At life’s close, you’re like the child whose parents
step out for a drive — 

everyone else out on a trip,
but the child remains in the familiar bed,
feeling old lumps like new
in the mattress — the lights off — 

not sleeping, for who can sleep
with the promise of a world beyond the door?

That night the child dreams
he’s inside the box.

It’s burning hot, the heat coming
from bugs and worms
raping and devouring one another.

He starts the hard work
of the imagination,
learning to minister to the new dream.

Perhaps all that’s needed is a little rain — 
for everyone to drink and have a bath.

Outside: a car humming,
somewhere, his mother’s singing.