Thursday, September 16, 2021

Winter Song for One Who Suffers by Brenda Hillman

Winter Song for One Who Suffers

 
The stars stand up
behind the day. A known dove balances
on its claw
at the window. A cosmic incident
of darkness has begun
 
   & a mild excess of beauty
  will be offered to the dead,
 which they will eat. On a hill
 
the wise man serves the people,
your thought splits
in half when he speaks of the old
revolts, the return
of apocalypse, motive & advancement.
 
   A soul can crouch
  a long time while the heart
 expands to reach its edges.
What is missing past the glitter
of the harvest?
     Friend, you chose
to live. How? You did. So many
choices, not just two, encrypted
behind the mystery of the sun,
 
then the hurt was set aside,
 indeterminate chaos
called in by love.



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bottleglass by Kaveh Akbar

Bottleglass

 
go ahead tread on me
see if I care I am already
unhuggable as a cactus
and too big to fit on any
lap keep your excuses
short or better yet keep
them to yourself any
animal you live with will
eventually eat you or
at least want to even
birds especially birds
it’s not betrayal if they’re
hungry or very
bored I am hot as
bottleglass pulled from
a fire my liver can’t
handle Tylenol any fever
is like a needle pricking
through my pupils into
my brain I am boiling
down to broth you are
full of spermicide and
the guilt of the
conqueror tell me
what that feels like using
only verbs then carve
my initials into your
halo watch me
disappear in luxury
like a beautiful name-
less planet with three
moons and a dead sun



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Drinking by Gabriela Mistral

Drinking

 
I remember people’s gestures,
They were gestures of giving me water.
 
In the Valley of Rio Blanco
Where the Aconcagua rises,
I went to drink, I leapt to drink
In the whip of a waterfall
That fell in a stiff mane
And broke white and rigid.
I glued my mouth to the foaming
And the blessed water burnt me,
And for three days my mouth was bleeding
From that drink of the Aconcagua.
 
In the country of Mitla,
A day of cicadas, of sun and of walking,
I bent to a pool and an Indian came
To hold me over the water.
And my head, like a fruit
Was between the palms of his hands.
I drank and what I was drinking
Was my face and his face together
And in a flash I knew
That my race was the flesh of Mitla.
 
On the Island of Puerto Rico
At the time of the blue-filled siesta,
My body at rest, the waves in a frenzy,
And the palms like a hundred mothers,
A little girl gracefully opened
A cocoanut close to my mouth
And I drank as a daughter,
Her mother’s milk, milk of the palmtrees.
And I have drunk no sweeter
With the soul nor with the body.
 
In the house of my childhood,
My mother brought me water.
Between one drink and another,
I looked at her over the jar.
My head I raised higher and higher
The jar sank lower and lower.
And still I keep the valley
I keep my thirst and her look.
This shall be eternity
For we are still as we were.
 
 I remember people’s gestures,
They were gestures of giving me water.
 
(translated by H.R. Hays)



Monday, September 13, 2021

To Himself by Mark Strand

To Himself

 
So you've come to me now without knowing why;
Nor why you sit in the ruby plush of an ugly chair, the sly
Revealing angle of light turning your hair a silver gray;
Nor why you have chosen this moment to set the writing of years
Against the writing of nothing; you who narrowed your eyes,
Peering into the polished air of the hallway mirror, and said
You were mine, all mine; who begged me to write, but always
Of course to you, without ever saying what it was for;
Who used to whisper in my ear only the things
You wanted to hear; who comes to me now and says
That it's late, that the trees are bending under the wind,
That night will fall; as if there were something
You wanted to know, but for years had forgotten to ask,
Something to do with sunlight slanting over a table
And chair, an arm rising, a face turning, and far
In the distance a car disappearing over the hill.



Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Past Suffers Too by Ben Purkert

The Past Suffers Too

 
The bumper sticker says Live In The Moment! on a Jeep
that cuts me off. I’m working to forget it, to let go
of everything but the wheel in my hands,
as a road connects two cities without forcing them
to touch. When I drive by something, does it sway
toward me or away? Does it slip into the past
or dance nervously in place? The past suffers
from anxiety too. It goes underground, emerging
once in a blue moon to hiss. I hear the grass never
saying a word. I hear it spreading its arms across
each grave & barely catch a name. My dying wish
is scattering now before every planet. I want places to
look forward to. Listen: the earth is a thin voice
in a headset. It’s whispering breathe... breathe...
but who believes in going back? 



A New Day Dawns by Nikky Finney

A New Day Dawns

 
On the occasion of the Confederate flag falling in South Carolina, July 10, 2015
 
It is the pearl-blue peep of day.
All night the palmetto sky
Was seized with the aurora
And alchemy of the remarkable.
A blazing canopy of newly minted
Light fluttered in while we slept.
We are not free to go on as if
Nothing happened yesterday.
Not free to cheer as if all our
Prayers have finally been answered
Today. We are free only to search
The yonder of each other’s faces,
As we pass by, tip our hat, hold a
Door ajar, asking silently,
Who are we now? Blood spilled
In battle is two-headed: horror &
Sweet revelation. Let us put the
Cannons of our eyes away forever.
Our one and only Civil War is done.
Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we,
The living, do not give our future
The same honor as the sacred dead,
Of then and now—we lose everything.
The gardenia air feels lighter on this
New day, guided now by iridescent
Fireflies, those atomlike creatures
Of our hot summer nights, now begging
Us to team up and search with them
For that which brightens every
Darkness. Soon, it will be just us
Again, alone, beneath the swirling
Indigo sky of South Carolina. Alone &
Working on the answer to our great
Day’s question: Who are we now?
What new human cosmos can be made
Of this tempest of tears, this upland
Of inconsolable jubilation? In all our
Lifetimes, finally, this towering
Undulating moment is here. 



Friday, September 10, 2021

Two Drops by Zbigniew Herbert

Two Drops

 
          No time to grieve for roses when the forests are burning.
          -- Juliusz Slowacki
 
The forests were on fire—
they however
wreathed their necks with their hands
like bouquets of roses
 
People ran to the shelters—
he said his wife had hair
in whose depths one could hide
 
Covered by one blanket
they whispered shameless words
the litany of those who love
 
When it got very bad
they leapt into each other’s eyes
and shut them firmly
 
So firmly they did not feel the flames
when they came up to the eyelashes
 
To the end they were brave
To the end they were faithful
To the end they were similar
like two drops
stuck at the edge of a face
 
(translated by Peter Dale Scott) 





Visits to St. Elizabeths by Elizabeth Bishop

Visits to St. Elizabeths

 
This is the house of Bedlam.
 
This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is the time
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is a sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the staring sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.
 
This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round or flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the time
of the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.



Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Is It True All Legends Once Were Rumors by Carl Phillips

Is It True All Legends Once Were Rumors


And it was as we’d been told it would be: some stumbling wingless;
others flew beheaded. But at first when we looked at them, we could
see no difference, the way it can take a while to realize about how
regretfulness is not regret. As for being frightened: though for many
animals the governing instinct, when most afraid, is to attack, what about
the tendency of songbirds, in a storm, toward silence—is that fear, too?
For mostly, yes, we were silent—tired, as well, though as much out of
boredom as for the need to stretch a bit, why not the rest on foot, we
at last decided—and dismounting, each walked with his horse close
beside him. We mapped our way north by the stars, old school, until there
were no stars, just the weather of childhood, where it’s snowing forever. 



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

How Dark the Beginning by Maggie Smith

How Dark the Beginning 

 
All we ever talk of is light—
let there be light, there was light then,
 
good light—but what I consider
dawn is darker than all that.
 
So many hours between the day
receding and what we recognize
 
as morning, the sun cresting
like a wave that won’t break
 
over us—as if  light were protective,
as if  no hearts were flayed,
 
no bodies broken on a day
like today. In any film,
 
the sunrise tells us everything
will be all right. Danger wouldn’t
 
dare show up now, dragging
its shadow across the screen.
 
We talk so much of  light, please
let me speak on behalf
 
of  the good dark. Let us
talk more of how dark
 
the beginning of a day is.
 


Monday, September 6, 2021

Coyote, with Mange by Mark Wunderlich

Coyote, with Mange

 
Oh, Unreadable One, why   
have you done this to your dumb creature?   
Why have you chosen to punish the coyote   
 
rummaging for chicken bones in the dung heap,   
shucked the fur from his tail   
and fashioned it into a scabby cane?   
 
Why have you denuded his face,   
tufted it, so that when he turns he looks   
like a slow child unhinging his face in a smile?   
 
The coyote shambles, crow-hops, keeps his head low,   
and without fur, his now visible pizzle   
is a sad red protuberance,   
 
his hind legs the backward image   
of a bandy-legged grandfather, stripped.   
Why have you unhoused this wretch   
 
from his one aesthetic virtue,   
taken from him that which kept him   
from burning in the sun like a man?   
 
Why have you pushed him from his world into mine,   
stopped him there and turned his ear   
toward my warning shout?



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Love Poem with Apologies for My Appearance by Ada Limón

Love Poem with Apologies for My Appearance

 
Sometimes, I think you get the worst
of me. The much-loved loose forest-green
sweatpants, the long bra-less days, hair
knotted and uncivilized, a shadowed brow
where the devilish thoughts do their hoofed
dance on the brain. I’d like to say this means
I love you, the stained white cotton T-shirt,
the tears, pistachio shells, the mess of orange
peels on my desk, but it’s different than that.
I move in this house with you, the way I move
in my mind, unencumbered by beauty’s cage.
I do like I do in the tall grass, more animal-me
than much else. I’m wrong, it is that I love you,
but it’s more that when you say it back, lights
out, a cold wind through curtains, for maybe
the first time in my life, I believe it.



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Faint Music by Robert Hass

Faint Music

 
Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.
 
When everything broken is broken,   
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,   
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.
 
As in the story a friend told once about the time   
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.   
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,   
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,   
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word   
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,   
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up   
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket   
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing   
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.
 
There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.   
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick   
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.   
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears   
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”   
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,   
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.   
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,   
and go to sleep.
                        And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened   
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.
 
It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.   
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing. 



Friday, September 3, 2021

Summer in a Small Town by Linda Gregg

Summer in a Small Town

 
When the men leave me,
they leave me in a beautiful place.
It is always late summer.
When I think of them now,
I think of the place.
And being happy alone afterwards.
This time it’s Clinton, New York.
I swim in the public pool
at six when the other people
have gone home.
The sky is grey, the air hot.
I walk back across the mown lawn
loving the smell and the houses
so completely it leaves my heart empty.



Thursday, September 2, 2021

Death and the City by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Death and the City

 
Yesterday’s newspaper becomes last week’s
Newspapers spread out like a hand-held fan
In front of the face of the apartment
Door. A dog does the Argos-thing inside,
Waiting beside O as though his body
Is but an Ithaca waiting the soul’s
Return. Neil the Super will soon come up
With the key but only in time to find
Doreen, the on-the-down-low-friend-with-perks,
There already, kneeling between the two,
Stroking the hair of both O and the dog,
Wondering who had been walking the dog.
 


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Chinese Poem by J. D. McClatchy

Chinese Poem

 
Whatever change you were considering,
Do not plant another tree in the garden.
One tree means four seasons of sadness:
What is going,
                                          What is coming,
What will not come,
                                          What cannot go.
 
Here in bed, through the south window
I can see the moon watching us both,
Someone's hand around its clump of light.
Yours? I know you are sitting out there,
Looking at silver bloom against the black.
 
That drop from your cup on the night sky's
Lacquer you wipe away with your sleeve
As if its pleated thickets were the wide space
Between us, though you know as well as I do
This autumn is no different from the last.
 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The El by Joan Murray

The El

 
No one ever grabbed my ass on the stairs down to
the D. But on the stairs up to the El, it happened
all the time. I guess it was anatomically more natural,
like reaching for an apple, but the first time,
I wasn’t sure how to feel. I think I felt warm,
which wasn’t an emotion. It felt like a rite of passage,
though I’d never heard of rites of passage.
Disgusting is what I said when I told my friends.
A grown man. I was twelve then. It felt like flattery.
 
From the El, I could look into other people’s windows,
but if I saw them at all, what they were doing mostly
were the same kinds of nothings we did in our own
apartment. What I usually saw were their curtains
blowing in and out, ’cause their windows were wide open.
It wasn’t like the High Line, where many years later
I saw two men in a hotel room doing a performance
just for me. The High Line used to be an El. It still is in a way,
though it’s covered with flowers. And I’m the train.
 
When I turned nineteen and got married, I went to live
up by Mt. Eden. It was cheap and noisy and the El
ran below our window and our daughter died and we were
still in school and took the D train to Manhattan now.
But coming home one night, I looked up and saw curtains
blowing in and out of someone’s window. I was on an El,
I don’t know where, or how I made it home. It wasn’t our El,
but it’s the El I dream about: I’ve just come down the stairs,
and now I’ve got to figure it out. Up on the platform
you could buy peanuts from a dispenser and either
give them to the pigeons or eat them yourself.



Monday, August 30, 2021

How to Listen by Major Jackson

How to Listen

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-tooth comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.



Sunday, August 29, 2021

Leaving the Island by Linda Pastan

Leaving the Island

 
We roll up the rugs and strip the beds by rote,
Summer expires as it has done before.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat
 
Nor are we simply cargo, though we’ll float
Alongside heavy trucks—their stink and roar.
We roll up rugs and strip the beds by rote.
 
This bit of land whose lines the glaciers wrote
Becomes the muse of memory once more;
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.
 
I’ll trade my swimsuit for a woolen coat;
The torch of autumn has but small allure.
We roll up rugs and strip the beds by rote.
 
The absences these empty shells denote
Suggest the losses winter has in store.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.
 
The songs of summer dwindle to one note;
The fog horn’s blast (which drowns this closing door.)
We rolled up rugs and stripped the beds by rote.
The ferry is no simple pleasure boat.



Saturday, August 28, 2021

Words from a Totem Animal by W. S. Merwin

Words from a Totem Animal

 
Distance
is where we were
but empty of us and ahead of
me lying out in the rushes thinking
even the nights cannot come back to their hill
any time
 
I would rather the wind came from outside
from mountains anywhere
from the stars from other
worlds even as
cold as it is this
ghost of mine passing
through me
 
I know your silence
and the repetition
like that of a word in the ear of death
teaching
itself
itself
that is the sound of my running
the plea
plea that it makes
which you will never hear
oh god of beginnings
immortal
 
I might have been right
not who I am
but all right
among the walls among the reasons
not even waiting
not seen
but now I am out in my feet
and they on their way
the old trees jump up again and again
strangers
there are no names for the rivers
for the days for the nights
I am who I am
oh lord cold as the thoughts of birds
and everyone can see me
 
Caught again and held again
again I am not a blessing
they bring me
names
that would fit anything
they bring them to me
they bring me hopes
all day I turn
making ropes
helping
 
My eyes are waiting for me
in the dusk
they are still closed
they have been waiting a long time
and I am feeling my way toward them
 
I am going up stream
taking to the water from time to time
my marks dry off the stones before morning
the dark surface
strokes the night
above its way
There are no stars
there is no grief
I will never arrive
I stumble when I remember how it was
with one foot
one foot still in a name
 
I can turn myself toward the other joys and their lights
but not find them
I can put my words into the mouths
of spirits
but they will not say them
I can run all night and win
and win
 
Dead leaves crushed grasses fallen limbs
the world is full of prayers
arrived at from
afterwards
a voice full of breaking
heard from afterwards
through all
the length of the night
 
I am never all of me
unto myself
and sometimes I go slowly
knowing that a sound one sound
is following me from world
to world
and that I die each time
before it reaches me
 
When I stop I am alone
at night sometimes it is almost good
as though I were almost there
sometimes then I see there is
in a bush beside me the same question
why are you
on this way
I said I will ask the stars
why are you falling and they answered
which of us
 
I dreamed I had no nails
no hair
I had lost one of the senses
not sure which
the soles peeled from my feet and
drifted away
clouds
It’s all one
feet
stay mine
hold the world lightly
 
Stars even you
have been used
but not you
silence
blessing
calling me when I am lost
 
Maybe I will come
to where I am one
and find
I have been waiting there
as a new
year finds the song of the nuthatch
 
Send me out into another life
lord because this one is growing faint
I do not think it goes all the way



Friday, August 27, 2021

The Light of the World by Derek Walcott

The Light of the World

 
     Kaya now, got to have kaya now,
     Got to have kaya now,
     For the rain is falling.
     Bob Marley
 
Marley was rocking on the transport's stereo
and the beauty was humming the choruses quietly.
I could see where the lights on the planes of her cheek
streaked and defined them; if this were a portrait
you'd leave the highlights for last, these lights
silkened her black skin; I'd have put in an earring,
something simple, in good gold, for contrast, but she
wore no jewelry. I imagined a powerful and sweet
odour coming from her, as from a still panther,
and the head was nothing else but heraldic.
When she looked at me, then away from me politely
because any staring at strangers is impolite,
it was like a statue, like a black Delacroix's
Liberty leading the People, the gently bulging
whites of her eyes, the carved ebony mouth,
the heft of the torso solid, and a woman's,
but gradually even that was going in the dusk,
except the line of her profile, and the highlit cheek,
and I thought, O Beauty, you are the light of the world!
 
It was not the only time I would think of that phrase
in the sixteen-seater transport that hummed between
Gros-Islet and the Market, with its grit of charcoal
and the litter of vegetables after Saturday's sales,
and the roaring rum shops, outside whose bright doors
you saw drunk women on pavements, the saddest of all things,
winding up their week, winding down their week.
The Market, as it closed on this Saturday night,
remembered a childhood of wandering gas lanterns
hung on poles at street corners, and the old roar
of vendors and traffic, when the lamplighter climbed,
hooked the lantern on its pole and moved on to another,
and the children turned their faces to its moth, their
eyes white as their nighties; the Market
itself was closed in its involved darkness
and the shadows quarrelled for bread in the shops,
or quarrelled for the formal custom of quarrelling
in the electric rum shops. I remember the shadows.
 
The van was slowly filling in the darkening depot.
I sat in the front seat, I had no need for time.
I looked at two girls, one in a yellow bodice
and yellow shorts, with a flower in her hair,
and lusted in peace, the other less interesting.
That evening I had walked the streets of the town
where I was born and grew up, thinking of my mother
with her white hair tinted by the dyeing dusk,
and the tilting box houses that seemed perverse
in their cramp; I had peered into parlours
with half-closed jalousies, at the dim furniture,
Morris chairs, a centre table with wax flowers,
and the lithograph of Christ of the Sacred Heart,
vendors still selling to the empty streets-
sweets, nuts, sodden chocolates, nut cakes, mints.
 
An old woman with a straw hat over her headkerchief
hobbled towards us with a basket; somewhere,
some distance off, was a heavier basket
that she couldn't carry. She was in a panic.
She said to the driver: 'Pas quittez moi a terre,'
which is, in her patois: 'Don't leave me stranded,'
which is, in her history and that of her people:
'Don't leave me on earth,' or, by a shift of stress:
'Don't leave me the earth' (for an inheritance);
'Pas quittez moi a terre, Heavenly transport,
Don't leave me on earth, I've had enough of it.'
The bus filled in the dark with heavy shadows
that would not be left on earth; no, that would be left
on the earth, and would have to make out.
Abandonment was something they had grown used to.
 
And I had abandoned them, I knew that there
sitting in the transport, in the sea-quiet dusk,
with men hunched in canoes, and the orange lights
from the Vigie headland, black boats on the water;
I, who could never solidify my shadow
to be one of their shadows, had left them their earth,
their white rum quarrels, and their coal bags,
their hatred of corporals, of all authority.
I was deeply in love with the woman by the window.
I wanted to be going home with her this evening.
I wanted her to have the key to our small house
by the beach at Gros-Ilet; I wanted her to change
into a smooth white nightie that would pour like water
over the black rocks of her breasts, to lie
simply beside her by the ring of a brass lamp
with a kerosene wick, and tell her in silence
that her hair was like a hill forest at night,
that a trickle of rivers was in her armpits,
that I would buy her Benin if she wanted it,
and never leave her on earth. But the others, too.
 
Because I felt a great love that could bring me to tears,
and a pity that prickled my eyes like a nettle,
I was afraid I might suddenly start sobbing
on the public transport with the Marley going,
and a small boy peering over the shoulders
of the driver and me at the lights coming,
at the rush of the road in the country darkness,
with lamps in the houses on the small hills,
and thickets of stars; I had abandoned them,
I had left them on earth, I left them to sing
Marley's songs of a sadness as real as the smell
of rain on dry earth, or the smell of damp sand,
and the bus felt warm with their neighbourliness,
their consideration, and the polite partings
 
in the light of its headlamps. In the blare,
in the thud-sobbing music, the claiming scent
that came from their bodies. I wanted the transport
to continue forever, for no one to descend
and say a good night in the beams of the lamps
and take the crooked path up to the lit door,
guided by fireflies; I wanted her beauty
to come into the warmth of considerate wood,
to the relieved rattling of enamel plates
in the kitchen, and the tree in the yard,
but I came to my stop. Outside the Halcyon Hotel.
The lounge would be full of transients like myself.
Then I would walk with the surf up the beach.
I got off the van without saying good night.
Good night would be full of inexpressible love.
They went on in their transport, they left me on earth.
 
Then, a few yards ahead, the van stopped. A man
shouted my name from the transport window.
I walked up towards him. He held out something.
A pack of cigarettes had dropped from my pocket.
He gave it to me. I turned, hiding my tears.
There was nothing they wanted, nothing I could give them
but this thing I have called 'The Light of the World.'



Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Edge of the Hurricane by Amy Clampitt

The Edge of the Hurricane

 
Wheeling, the careening
winds arrive with lariats
and tambourines of rain.
Torn-to-pieces, mud-dark
flounces of Caribbean
 
cumulus keep passing,
keep passing.    By afternoon
rinsed transparencies begin
to open overhead, Mediterranean
windowpanes of clearness
 
crossed by young gusts’
vaporous fripperies, liquid
footprints flying, lacewing
leaf-shade brightening
and fading. Sibling
 
gales stand up on point
in twirling fouettés
of debris. The day ends
bright, cloud-wardrobe
packed away. Nightfall
 
hangs up a single moon
bleached white as laundry,
serving notice yet again how
levity can also trample,
drench, wring and mangle.



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Notes toward an Elegy by Elisa Gonzalez

Notes toward an Elegy

 
The Cypriot sun is impatient, a woman undressed
who can’t spare the time to dress, so light
like a vitrine holds even a storm.
One day in the Old City, a pineapple rain.
And I’m on my way home from the pharmacy, carrying my little bag of cures.
Refuge at the café in the nameless square.
Nihal brings espresso poured over ice, turns off the music.
We listen to rain fall through the light until the end.
 
White wine greening in a glass.
Lion rampant in the sky. Moon reclined gorgeous in her silver shift.
Polished newels. Door askew in its frame.
 
Hot mornings. Hot apple tea, honeyed.
The mountains a fist knuckled on the horizon.
Dust is coming, dust is not yet here.
 
Whenever her hands dance, I tell her how beautiful.
She says there’s so much other movement I do not perceive.
And I accept the presence of dances invisible to me.
 
Figs in the tree, figs on the stones.
Stains of rotting fruit spread and shadow at the sun’s whim.
That steady dissolution of body into form that signals the progress of a masterpiece.
 
Copper bowl in her hands. In the bowl in the hands, olive leaves burn.
 
I ask her to read to me. I like the way her voice handles words.
What will she read? First she laughs.
It’s a good day to laugh. The coffee is strong. And the light.
Why read when we can talk? When all our friends are here?
 
My perversity is silence, a shudder stopped
in the throat. When all the time I hear her voice:
I am glad my soul met your soul.
 
—Examples of what, I do not know. It’s just that
for a time I took Love out walking
with me everywhere and sometimes I thought Child, whose is this child?
when it played in the square. A sunshine creature, terrifying,
yet still I looked at it like I’ve never looked at a stranger
who promises water to the waterless for nothing.
And now I lie awake pretending
everyone in the world lies still the way the living are still:
not entirely, never entirely.