Tuesday, April 30, 2019

From Soft Targets by Deborah Landau

From Soft Targets

A breath leaves the body, and wishes it could return maybe,
the news to the left and right rich with failure, terror, dither,
the bloated moon in constant charge of us like vapor—

and this did frame our constituency, even in our cozy homes
even in a painless state on the downriver, oh oblivion—
sipping champagne as another night brings forth its big dancing plan its damage.

I had a thought but it turned autumn, turned cold.
I had a body, unwearied, vital, despite the funeral in everything—
ample with bodies, covered in graves and gardens, potholes and water,

an ardent river we walked together, a wine and rising breeze.
Much trouble at hand, yet the lilies still.
That summer we sat with our backs to the street, letting time pass—

lying all afternoon in the grass as if green and insect were the world.
I am, I am, and you are, you are, we wrote, until the paper seemed a tree again
and we walked beneath it greener and unsullied afresh.

Massive powers that be, what will be?
We smoke our pipes to forget you
& mildly now we bide our time

the violence and real cities under siege,
but also filled this morning
with coffee drinkers, office workers, taxi drivers, boys on bikes.

Golden we were in the moment of conception,
and alive, as if we always would be.

Monday, April 29, 2019

[Making] by Vera Pavlova


Making love as much as we wish,
skinny-dipping whenever we feel . . .
How is life, naked kids?
Life teems in every cell!
All alone, as in an Eden,
no laws, as in dreams . . .
I spread my skirt on the grass:
life of mine, come to me.

(Translated by Steven Seymour)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Daphne, After by Carol Muske-Dukes

Daphne, After
So Spring blossomed in spite of itself.
Uniform skirts up-rolled high by wild girls
curbside, smoking. Still, two of us, heads
together, translating. Our selves as Stoic
teens, thinking Marcus, Marcus A.!
So: month of rose pagodas, of lilacs
impetuous, blue. Twigs spill from
her dropped text, as she flees
translation class, the nun’s query.
He demanded her name first. Just
steps from the bus stop. Sunset:
shade before ancient dark. Blossoms
beneath her, beneath the shock-light of
staggered street lamps coming on. Leda’s
Zeus, his suit & tie, swan’s hiss in her ear.
She told me only. The great wings of
aloneness closed in us, we learned how
the passive voice was magnified: “The soul
is dyed with the color of its thoughts.”
Powerless to move, she became past
tense of strength once standing tall
at her father’s grave. His name in brass
florets. But Latin offhand—“to seize or
abduct.” Ovid’s shudder: Vos mos non
sit sponsa . . . Once we might have found it
funny: You will not be a bride, you will be
a tree. At each ring where her flesh became
bark, a path opened: root split. Some
believe that anger can take the place of
love. She found the verb for it. Having to
do with the forest & a young girl running fast,
calling out—then silence. Becoming as she
had, one of them, reaching skyward. Their
witness, bowing. Those wings hidden in
the tree, meaning she was not ready to be
cut down, not ready to be chopped into little
sticks & tossed into fire’s assumed supremacy—
all that smoke, her ashes refusing to fly.

Spring by Robert Hass

We bought great ornamental oranges,
Mexican cookies, a fragrant yellow tea.
Browsed the bookstores. You
asked mildly, “Bob, who is Ugo Betti?”
A bearded bird-like man
(he looked like a Russian priest
with imperial bearing
and a black ransacked raincoat)
turned to us, cleared
his cultural throat, and
told us both interminably
who Ugo Betti was. The slow
filtering of sun through windows
glazed to gold the silky hair
along your arms. Dusk was
a huge weird phosphorescent beast
dying slowly out across the bay.
Our house waited and our books,
the skinny little soldiers on the shelves.
After dinner I read one anyway.
You chanted, “Ugo Betti has no bones,”
and when I said, “The limits of my language
are the limits of my world,” you laughed.
We spoke all night in tongues,
in fingertips, in teeth.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Hunger by Ama Codjoe

When I rose into the cradle
of my mother’s mind, she was but
a girl, fighting her sisters
over a flimsy doll. It’s easy
to forget how noiseless I could be
spying from behind my mother’s eyes
as her mother, bulging with a baby,
a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed
the doorway with a moon. We all
fell silent. My mother soothed the torn
rag against her chest and caressed
its stringy hair. Even before the divergence
of girl from woman, woman from mother,
I was there: quiet as a vein, quick
as hot, brimming tears. In the decades
before my birthday, years before
my mother’s first blood, I was already
prized. Hers was a hunger
that mattered, though sometimes
she forgot and I dreamed the dream
of orange trees then startled awake
days or hours later. I could’ve been
almost anyone. Before I was a daughter,
I was a son, honeycomb clenching
the O of my mouth. I was a mother—
my own—nursing a beginning.