Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Reminder by Marie Ponsot


I am rich I am poor. Time is all I own.
I spend or hoard it for experience.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

Thrift is a venomous error, then, a stone
named bread or cash to support the pretense
that I’m rich. I am poor; time is all I own …

though I hold to memory: how spent time shone
as you approached, and the light loomed immense.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known,

though scars fade. I have memory on loan
while it evaporates; though it be dense
& I am rich, I am poor. Time is all I own

to sustain me – the moonlit skeleton
that holds my whole life in moving suspense.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

Ownership’s brief, random, a suite of events.
If the past is long the future’s short. Since
I am rich I am poor. Time is all I own.
By the bitten wound the biting tooth is known.

Monday, April 6, 2020

First Love by Stanley Kunitz

First Love

At his incipient sun
The ice of twenty winters broke,
Crackling, in her eyes.

Her mirroring, still mind,
That held the world (made double) calm,
Went fluid, and it ran.

There was a stir of music,
Mixed with flowers, in her blood;
A swift impulsive balm

From obscure roots;
Gold bees of clinging light
Swarmed in her brow.

Her throat is full of songs,
She hums, she is sensible of wings
Growing on her heart.

She is a tree in spring
Trembling with the hope of leaves,
Of which the leaves are tongues.  

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Identity Politics by Tayi Tibble

Identity Politics

I buy a Mana Party T-shirt from AliExpress.
$9.99 free shipping via standard post.
Estimated arrival 14–31 working days.
Tracking unavailable via DSL. Asian size XXL.
I wear it as a dress with thigh-high vinyl boots
and fishnets. I post a picture to Instagram.
Am I navigating correctly? Tell me,
which stars were my ancestors looking at?
And which ones burnt the black of searching irises
and reflected something genuine back? I look to
Rihanna and Kim Kardashian shimmering in
Swarovski crystals. Make my eyes glow with seeing.
I am inhaling, long white clouds and I see
rivers of milk running toward orange oceans of
sunlit honey. Tell me, am I navigating correctly?
I want to spend my money on something bougie,
like custom-made pounamu hoop earrings. I want to
make them myself but my line doesn’t trace back
to the beauties in the south making amulets
with elegant fingers. I go back into blackness,
I go back and fill in the gaps, searching through archives
of advertisements: Welcome to the Wonderland
of the South Pacific. Tiki bars, traffic-light cocktails &
paper umbrellas. Tell me, am I navigating correctly?
Steering through the storm drunk & wet-faced
waking up to the taste of hangover, a dry mouth, a strange bed,
shirt above my head is the flag fluttering over everything.
What were we celebrating? The 6th of February is the anniversary
of the greatest failed marriage this nation has ever seen.
In America, couples have divorce parties. We always arrive
fashionably late. Tell me, am I navigating correctly? The sea
our ancestors traversed stretches out farther than the stars.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

April by William Carlos Williams


If you had come away with me
into another state
we had been quiet together.
But there the sun coming up
out of the nothing beyond the lake was
too low in the sky,
there was too great a pushing
against him,
too much of sumac buds, pink
in the head
with the clear gum upon them,
too many opening hearts of lilac leaves,  
too many, too many swollen
limp poplar tassels on the
bare branches!
It was too strong in the air.
I had no rest against that  
The pounding of the hoofs on the
raw sods
stayed with me half through the night.
I awoke smiling but tired. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Abandoned Valley by Jack Gilbert

The Abandoned Valley

Can you understand being alone so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the well
so you could feel something down there
tug at the other end of the rope?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What the Body Can Say by Natasha Trethewey

What the Body Can Say

Even in stone the gesture is unmistakable—
the man upright, though on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and, covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face.  I think

grief, and since he’s here, in the courtyard
of the divinity school, what he might ask of God.        
How easy it is to read this body’s language,
Or those gestures we’ve come to know—the raised thumb    
that is both a symbol of agreement and the request
for a ride, the two fingers held up that once meant     
victory, then peace.  But what was my mother saying
that day not long before her death—her face tilted up

at me, her mouth falling open, wordless, just as
we open our mouths in church to take in the wafer,

meaning communion? What matters is context—
the side of the road, or that my mother wanted

something I still can’t name: what, kneeling,
my face behind my hands, I might ask of God.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

You Will Know When You Get There by Allen Curnow

You Will Know When You Get There

Nobody comes up from the sea as late as this
in the day and the season, and nobody else goes down

the last steep kilometre, wet-metalled where 
a shower passed shredding the light which keeps

pouring out of its tank in the sky, through summits, 
trees, vapours thickening and thinning. Too

credibly by half celestial, the dammed
reservoir up there keeps emptying while the light lasts 

over the sea where ‘it gathers the gold against
it’. The light is bits of crushed rock randomly

glinting underfoot, wetted by the short 
shower, and down you go and so in its way does

the sun which gets there first. Boys, two of them, 
turn campfirelit faces, a hesitancy to speak

is a hesitancy of the earth rolling back and away
behind this man going down to the sea with a bag

to pick mussels, having an arrangement with the tide,
the ocean to be shallowed three point seven meters,

one hour’s light to be left, and there’s the excrescent
moon sponging off the last of it. A door

slams, a heavy wave, a door, the sea-floor shudders.
Down you go alone, so late, into the surge-black fissure.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Moment by Marie Howe

The Moment

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment 
when,   nothing  
no what-have-I-to-do-today-list   

maybe   half a moment   
the rush of traffic stops.   
The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be  
slows to silence, 
the white cotton curtains hanging still.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Scintilla, Star by Jameson Fitzpatrick

Scintilla, Star

In the old place, there was no place
that did not see me.
Wherever I went mothers whispered
about me like a Greek chorus:
I heard that boy    ...    I heard that.
I was just a boy. But it was
true, what they said, that I liked
other boys, that I had stolen Sarah’s,
though he was four years older
and they were very much in love.
I made him break up with her
in a Chili’s parking lot
while I waited inside. I was
fourteen. How embarrassing
to have been fourteen, to have eaten
at that Chili’s, often. That summer
I had no taste for anything
but him. Faintly of chlorine.
When he left for college
I had no one. Sarah’s friends
stared me down at school.
I found it was better,
if I could not be no one,
to be someone. Small, but
particular. Specified, which was
an apprenticeship for special.
Cold, another word for cool.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Three Women by Dunya Mikhail

Three Women

Another night on the way to the cages
and the stars—dead eggs glistening—
don’t know the secret of the stone.

For ten years the stone was left
in the basement with the three
kidnapped women inside it.

Their souls broke the door and escaped.
Their bodies lagged a few steps behind.
They will never look back.

If they do, they will find their feathers
scattered everywhere, and a bell
with no ring, and three shadows

trapped inside a stone.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Remembering My Father by Zbigniew Herbert

Remembering My Father

His face severe in clouds above the waters of childhood
so rarely did he hold my warm head in his hands
given to belief not forgiving faults
because he cleared our woods and straightened paths
he carried the lantern high when we entered the night

I thought I would sit at his right hand
and we would separate light from darkness
and judge those of us who live
—it happened otherwise

A junk dealer carried his throne on a hand-cart
and the deed of ownership the map of our kingdom

he was born a second time slight very fragile
with transparent skin hardly perceptible cartilage
he diminished his body so I might receive it

in an unimportant place there is shadow under a stone 

he himself grows in me we eat our defeats
we burst out laughing
when they say how little is needed
to be reconciled

(Translated by John and Bogdana Carpenter)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Maybe All This by Wisława Szymborska

Maybe All This

Maybe all this
is happening in some lab?
Under one lamp by day
and billions by night?

Maybe we’re experimental generations?
Poured from one vial to the next,
shaken in test tubes,
not scrutinized by eyes alone,
each of us separately
plucked up by tweezers in the end?

Or maybe it’s more like this:
No interference?
The changes occur on their own
according to plan?
The graph’s needle slowly etches
its predictable zigzags?

Maybe thus far we aren’t of much interest?
The control monitors aren’t usually plugged in?
Only for wars, preferably large ones,
for the odd ascent above our clump of Earth,
for major migrations from point A to B?

Maybe just the opposite:
They’ve got a taste for trivia up there?
Look! on the big screen a little girl
is sewing a button on her sleeve.
The radar shrieks,
the staff comes at a run.
What a darling little being
with its tiny heart beating inside it!

How sweet, its solemn
threading of the needle!
Someone cries enraptured:
Get the Boss,
tell him he’s got to see this for himself!

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak)

Three Words by Li-Young Lee

Three Words

God-My-Father gave me three words:

God-My-Mother’s wounds will never heal.

God-My-Brother is always alone in the library.

Meanwhile, I can’t remember
how many brothers I have.

God-My-Sister, combing the knots out of my hair,
says that’s because
so many brothers died before I learned to count,
and the ones who died after I acquired arithmetic
so exceeded the number of brothers still alive.

God-My-Father gave me three words to live by.
O-My-Love.     O-My-God.     Holy-Holy-Holy.

Why won’t God-My-Mother’s wounds heal?
Wounding myself doesn’t cauterize her wounds.
Another wound to her won’t seal her open blooms.

Her voice is a flowering tree struck by lightning.
It goes on greening and flowering,
but come petal-fall, its blossoms dropping
thunder so loud I must cover my ears to hear her.

Meanwhile, God-My-Brother spends every afternoon
alone with the books God-My-Father writes.
Some days he looks up
from a page, wearing the very face of horror.
Ask him what’s the matter
and he’ll stare into your eyes and whisper, “Murder!”
He’ll howl, “Murder!” He’ll scream, “Murder!”
Until he’s hoarse or exhausted.
Or until God-My-Sister sits him down,
combs and braids his hair,
and sorts his dreams.

I’m counting out loud all of my brothers’ names,
the living and the dead, on my fingers.
But the list is long,
leading back to the beginning
of the building of the first human cities,
and I keep losing my place and starting over.
Once, I remembered them all
except the first pair.

God-My-Sister says I must never say those names, never
pronounce the names of that first pair of brothers
within earshot of God-My-Brother.

God-My-Father gave me only three words.
How will I ever learn to talk like other people?

God-My-Mother sings, and her voice
comes like winter to break open the seeds.

God-My-Brother spends most of his time alone.
God-My-Sister is the only one
he’ll ever let touch his face.

God-My-Sister, you should see her.
I have so many brothers,
but forever there will be
only one of her, God-My-Sister.

God-My-Father says from those three words
he gave me, all other words descend, branching.
That still leaves me unfit
for conversation, like some deranged bird
you can’t tell is crying in grief or exultation,
all day long repeating,
“O, my God.
O, my love.
Holy, holy, holy.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What Keeps by C. D. Wright

What Keeps

We live on a hillside
close to water
We eat in darkness
We sleep in the coldest
part of the house
We love in silence
We keep our poetry
locked in a glass cabinet
Some nights We stay up
passing it back and
between us
drinking deep

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stutterer by Alan Dugan


Courage: your tongue has left 
its natural position in the cheek 
where eddies of the breath 
are navigable calms. Now 
it locks against the glottis or 
is snapped at by the teeth, 
in midstream: it must be work 
to get out what you mean: 
the rapids of the breath 
are furious with belief 
and want the tongue, as blood 
and animal of speech, 
to stop it, block it, or come clean 
over the rocks of teeth 
and down the races of the air, 
tumbled and bruised to death. 
Relax it into acting, be 
the air’s straw-hat 
canoeist with a mandolin 
yodeling over the falls. 
This is the sound advice 
of experts and a true despair: 
it is the toll to pass the locks 
down to the old mill stream 
where lies of love are fair.  

Monday, March 23, 2020

Readings in French by Larry Levis

Readings in French


Looking into the eyes of Gerard de Nerval
You notice the giant sea crabs rising.
Which is what happens
When you look into the eyes of Gerard de Nerval,
Always the same thing: the giant sea crabs,
The claws in their vague red holsters
Moving around, a little doubtfully.


But looking into the eyes of Pierre Reverdy
Is like throwing the editorial page
Out into the rain
And then riding alone on the subway.

Also, it is like avoiding your father.
You are hiding and he looks for you
Under each vine; he is coming nearer
And nearer.
What can you do
But ignore him?


In either case, soon you are riding alone on a subway.
Which is not important.
What is important is to avoid
Looking too closely into the eyes of your father,
That formal eclipse.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Realism by Beth Bachmann


God said, your name is mud
and the thing about mud is you
got to throw it down
to remove the air
and sometimes cut it
and rejoin it with another part.
If stars are made of dust,
it’s not the same stuff,
God said;
you can’t make a hut out of it,
only heaven,
and when I said dust to dust, that’s not what I meant.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Poets Are Dying by Brenda Shaughnessy

The Poets Are Dying

It seems impossible
they seemed immortal.

Where are they going
if not to their next poems?

Poems that, like lives, make do
and make that doing do more—

holding a jolt like a newborn,
a volta turning toward a god-load

of grief dumped from some heaven
where words rain down

and the poet is soaked. Cold
to the bone, we’ve become. Thick-

headed, death-bedded, heartsick.
Poets. Flowers picked, candles wicked,

forgiving everyone they tricked.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The World by Czesław Miłosz

The World

It appears that it was all a misunderstanding.
What was only a trial run was taken seriously.
The rivers will return to their beginnings.
The wind will cease in its turning about.
Trees instead of budding will tend to their roots.
Old men will chase a ball, a glance in the mirror–
They are children again.
The dead will wake up, not comprehending.
Till everything that happened has unhappened.
What a relief! Breathe freely, you who have suffered much.  

(Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Haas)

You Want a Social Life, with Friends by Kenneth Koch

You Want a Social Life, with Friends

You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.

There isn’t time enough, my friends–
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends–
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day’s end?

Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Cento Between the Ending and the End by Cameron Awkward-Rich

Cento Between the Ending and the End

Sometimes you don’t die
when you’re supposed to
& now I have a choice
repair a world or build
a new one inside my body
a white door opens
into a place queerly brimming
gold light so velvet-gold
it is like the world
hasn’t happened
when I call out
all my friends are there
everyone we love
is still alive gathered
at the lakeside
like constellations
my honeyed kin
honeyed light
beneath the sky
a garden blue stalks
white buds the moon’s
marble glow the fire
distant & flickering
the body whole bright-
winged brimming
with the hours
of the day beautiful
nameless planet. Oh
friends, my friends—
bloom how you must, wild
until we are free.