Friday, April 30, 2021

Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly


Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat's headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped....
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn't hear the train's horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke....
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn't know was that the goat's head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn't know
Was that the goat's head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother's call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Let Me Begin Again by Major Jackson

Let Me Begin Again

Let me begin again as a quiet thought
in the shape of a shell slowly examined
by a brown child on a beach at dawn s
training to see their future. Let me begin
this time knowing the drumming in my dreams
is me inheriting the earth, is morning
lighting up the rivers. Let me burn
my vanities: old music in the pines, sifters
of scotch, a day moon like a signature
of night. This time, let me circle
the island of my fears only once then
live like a raging waterfall and grow
a magnificent mustache. Let me not ever be
the birdcage or the serrated blade or
the empty season. Dear Glacier, Dear Sea
of Stars, Dear Leopards disintegrating
at the outer limits of our greed; soon we will
encounter you only in motivational tweets.
Reader, I should have married you sooner.
This time, let me not sleep like the prophet who
believes he’s seen infinity. Let me run
at break-neck speeds toward sceneries
of doubt. I have no more dress rehearsals
to attend. Look closer: I am licking my lips.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Don’t Write Elegies by Edward Hirsch

Don’t Write Elegies 

Don’t write elegies
anymore, let someone else
stumble past the mausoleum
and grieve
under the calm shade
of a plane tree, wiping away
the tears of his ex-wife,
staining the knees of his black suit,
first sobbing, then choking back sobs,
comforting others, consoling himself
by scrubbing the white stone
and weeding the plot
year after year,
I’m sorry, it’s too sad, it’s time
for someone else to mourn
my dead,
though who else can do it?,
I just need to life here
a while longer
face down in the soil
and then get up and breath. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Prelude by Kiki Petrosino


You’re on a train & your ancestors are in the Quiet Car.
The Quiet Car is locked with a password you can’t decrypt.
You’re a professional password decrypter, but your ancestors are demolition experts.
You’re wearing black tactical gear & your ancestors are wearing black tactical gear.
You’re dashing through each compartment, slamming doors open, while your ancestors lay small explosives.
As heat expands within the carriage, you escape through a picture window.
You climb to the top of the train & your ancestors rappel down the sides.
You’re rappelling down one side of the train when you glimpse your ancestors above you.
They leap from carriage to carriage as if weightless, as if drifting, as if curling tongues of snow.
You cling to the side of the train as each of your ancestors lift away from you.
They float into the cloud of themselves.
In the rushing light, you perceive them as hundreds of slow snake doctors.
you begin.


Monday, April 26, 2021

Zucchini by Peter Balakian


My grandmother cored them
with a serrated knife
with her hands that had come
through the slaughter—
So many hours I stared at the blotch
marks on her knuckles,
her strong fingers around the
long green gourd—
In a glass bowl the stuffing was setting—
chopped lamb, tomato pulp, raw rice, lemon juice,
a sand brew of spices—
from the riverbank of her birth—
Can holding on to this image
help me make sense of time?
the temporal waves,
waves smashing and lipping
the pulverized stone; a bird dissolving
into a cloud bank in late day;
the happy and sad steps we walked
along the plaster walls and steel bridges,
the glass façades, highways of glistening money
the objects we caress in dreams
from which we wake to find the hallway dark,
the small light at the bottom of the stairs,
the kitchen waiting with a scent
of zucchini sautéed in olive oil
onions and oregano,
a waft of last night’s red wine—a gulp
of cold water to bring on the day. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

How to Cut a Pomegranate by Imtiaz Dharker

How to Cut a Pomegranate

“Never,” said my father,
“Never cut a pomegranate
through the heart. It will weep blood.
Treat it delicately, with respect.
Just slit the upper skin across four quarters.
This is a magic fruit,
so when you split it open, be prepared
for the jewels of the world to tumble out,
more precious than garnets,
more lustrous than rubies,
lit as if from inside.
Each jewel contains a living seed.
Separate one crystal.
Hold it up to catch the light.
Inside is a whole universe.
No common jewel can give you this.”
Afterwards, I tried to make necklaces
of pomegranate seeds.
The juice spurted out, bright crimson,
and stained my fingers, then my mouth.
I didn’t mind. The juice tasted of gardens
I had never seen, voluptuous
with myrtle, lemon, jasmine,
and alive with parrots’ wings.
The pomegranate reminded me
that somewhere I had another home.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

City Without a Name by Czesław Miłosz

City Without a Name

Who will honor the city without a name
If so many are dead and others pan gold
Or sell arms in faraway countries?
What shepherd's horn swathed in the bark of birch
Will sound in the Ponary Hills the memory of the absent—
Vagabonds, Pathfinders, brethren of a dissolved lodge?
This spring, in a desert, beyond a campsite flagpole,
—In silence that stretched to the solid rock of yellow and red mountains—
I heard in a gray bush the buzzing of wild bees.
The current carried an echo and the timber of rafts.
A man in a visored cap and a woman in a kerchief
Pushed hard with their four hands at a heavy steering oar.
In the library, below a tower painted with the signs of the zodiac,
Kontrym would take a whiff from his snuffbox and smile
For despite Metternich all was not yet lost.
And on crooked lanes down the middle of a sandy highway
Jewish carts went their way while a black grouse hooted
Standing on a cuirassier's helmet, a relict of La Grande Armée.
In Death Valley I thought about styles of hairdo,
About a hand that shifted spotlights at the Student's Ball
In the city from which no voice could reach me.
Minerals did not sound the last trumpet.
There was only the rustle of a loosened grain of lava.
In Death Valley salt gleams from a dried-up lake bed.
Defend, defend yourself, says the tick-tock of the blood.
From the futility of solid rock, no wisdom.
In Death Valley no hawk or eagle against the sky.
The prediction of a Gypsy woman has come true.
In a lane under an arcade, then, I was reading a poem
Of someone who had lived next door, entitled "An Hour of Thought."
I looked long at the rearview mirror: there, the one man
Within three miles, an Indian, was walking a bicycle uphill.
With flutes, with torches
And a drum, boom, boom,
Look, the one who died in Istanbul, there, in the first row.
He walks arm in arm with his young lady,
And over them swallows fly.
They carry oars or staffs garlanded with leaves
And bunches of flowers from the shores of the Green Lakes,
As they came closer and closer, down Castle Street.
And then suddenly nothing, only a white puff of cloud
Over the Humanities Student Club,
Division of Creative Writing.
Books, we have written a whole library of them.
Lands, we have visited a great many of them.
Battles, we have lost a number of them.
Till we are no more, we and our Maryla.
Understanding and pity,
We value them highly.
What else?
Beauty and kisses,
Fame and its prizes,
Who cares?
Doctors and lawyers,
Well-turned-out majors,
Six feet of earth.
Rings, furs, and lashes,
Glances at Masses,
Rest in peace.
Sweet twin breasts, good night.
Sleep through to the light,
Without spiders.
The sun goes down above the Zealous Lithuanian Lodge
And kindles fire on landscapes "made from nature":
The Wilia winding among pines; black honey of the Żejmiana;
The Mereczanka washes berries near the Żegaryno village.
The valets had already brought in Theban candelabra
And pulled curtains, one after the other, slowly,
While, thinking I entered first, taking off my gloves,
I saw that all the eyes were fixed on me.
When I got rid of grieving
And the glory I was seeking,
Which I had no business doing,
I was carried by dragons
Over countries, bays, and mountains,
By fate, or by what happens.
Oh yes, I wanted to be me.
I toasted mirrors weepily
And learned my own stupidity.
From nails, mucous membrane,
Lungs, liver, bowels, and spleen
Whose house is made? Mine.
So what else is new?
I am not my own friend.
Time cuts me in two.
Monuments covered with snow,
Accept my gift. I wandered;
And where, I don't know.
Absent, burning, acrid, salty, sharp.
Thus the feast of Insubstantiality.
Under a gathering of clouds anywhere.
In a bay, on a plateau, in a dry arroyo.
No density. No harness of stone.
Even the Summa thins into straw and smoke.
And the angelic choirs fly over in a pomegranate seed
Sounding every few instants, not for us, their trumpets.
Light, universal, and yet it keeps changing.
For I love the light too, perhaps the light only.
Yet what is too dazzling and too high is not for me.
So when the clouds turn rosy, I think of light that is level
In the lands of birch and pine coated with crispy lichen,
Late in autumn, under the hoarfrost when the last milk caps
Rot under the firs and the hounds' barking echoes,
And jackdaws wheel over the tower of a Basilian church.
Unexpressed, untold.
But how?
The shortness of life,
the years quicker and quicker,
not remembering whether it happened in this or that autumn.
Retinues of homespun velveteen skirts,
giggles above a railing, pigtails askew,
sittings on chamberpots upstairs
when the sledge jingles under the columns of the porch
just before the moustachioed ones in wolf fur enter.
Female humanity,
children's snots, legs spread apart,
snarled hair, the milk boiling over,
stench, shit frozen into clods.
And those centuries,
conceiving in the herring smell of the middle of the night
instead of playing something like a game of chess
or dancing an intellectual ballet.
And palisades,
and pregnant sheep,
and pigs, fast eaters and poor eaters,
and cows cured by incantations.
Not the Last Judgment, just a kermess by a river.
Small whistles, clay chickens, candied hearts.
So we trudged through the slush of melting snow
To buy bagels from the district of Smorgonie.
A fortune-teller hawking: "Your destiny, your planets."
And a toy devil bobbing in a tube of crimson brine.
Another, a rubber one, expired in the air squeaking,
By the stand where you bought stories of King Otto and Melusine.
Why should that city, defenseless and pure as the wedding necklace of
a forgotten tribe, keep offering itself to me?
Like blue and red-brown seeds beaded in Tuzigoot in the copper desert
seven centuries ago.
Where ocher rubbed into stone still waits for the brow and cheekbone
it would adorn, though for all that time there has been no one.
What evil in me, what pity has made me deserve this offering?
It stands before me, ready, not even the smoke from one chimney is
lacking, not one echo, when I step across the rivers that separate us.
Perhaps Anna and Dora Drużyno have called to me, three hundred miles
inside Arizona, because except fo me no one else knows that they ever
They trot before me on Embankment Street, two hently born parakeets
from Samogitia, and at night they unravel their spinster tresses of gray
Here there is no earlier and no later; the seasons of the year and of the
day are simultaneous.
At dawn shit-wagons leave town in long rows and municipal employees
at the gate collect the turnpike toll in leather bags.
Rattling their wheels, "Courier" and "Speedy" move against the current
to Werki, and an oarsman shot down over England skiffs past, spread-
eagled by his oars.
At St. Peter and Paul's the angels lower their thick eyelids in a smile
over a nun who has indecent thoughts.
Bearded, in a wig, Mrs. Sora Klok sits at the counter, instructing her
twelve shopgirls.
And all of German Street tosses into the air unfurled bolts of fabric,
preparing itself for death and the conquest of Jerusalem.
Black and princely, an underground river knocks at cellars of the
cathedral under the tomb of St. Casimir the Young and under the
half-charred oak logs in the hearth.
Carrying her servant's-basket on her shoulder, Barbara, dressed in
mourning, returns from the Lithuanian Mass at St. Nicholas to the
Romers' house in Bakszta Street.
How it glitters! the snow on Three Crosses Hill and Bekiesz Hill, not
to be melted by the breath of these brief lives.
And what do I know now, when I turn into Arsenal Street and open
my eyes once more on a useless end of the world?
I was running, as the silks rustled, through room after room without
stopping, for I believed in the existence of a last door.
But the shape of lips and an apple and a flower pinned to a dress were
all that one was permitted to know and take away.
The Earth, neither compassionate nor evil, neither beautiful nor atro-
cious, persisted, innocent, open to pain and desire.
And the gift was useless, if, later on, in the flarings of distant nights,
there was not less bitterness but more.
If I cannot so exhaust my life and their life that the bygone crying is
transformed, at last, into harmony.
Like a Noble Jan Dęboróg in the Straszun's secondhand-book shop, I am
put to rest forever between two familiar names.
The castle tower above the leafy tumulus grows small and there is still
a hardly audible—is it Mozart's Requiem?—music.
In the immobile light I move my lips and perhaps I am even glad not
to find the desired word.

(Translated by Robert Haas, Czesław Miłosz, Robert Pinsky, and Renata Gorczyskni)

The Blue Bowl by Jane Kenyon

The Blue Bowl 

Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole.
                           They fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.
We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows keener than these.
Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well
but always says the wrong thing.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Memory Cave by Yusef Komunyakaa

Memory Cave 

A tallow worked into a knot
of rawhide, with a ball of waxy light
tied to a stick, the boy
scooted through a secret mouth
of the cave, pulled by the flambeau
in his hand. He could see
the gaze of agate eyes
& wished for the forbidden
plains of bison & wolf, years
from the fermented honey
& musty air. In the dried
slag of bear & bat guano,
the initiate stood with sleeping
gods at his feet, lost
in the great cloud of their one
breath. Their muzzles craved
touch. How did they learn
to close eyes, to see into
the future? Before the Before:
mammon was unnamed & mist
hugged ravines & hillocks.
The elders would test him
beyond doubt & blood. Mica
lit the false skies where
stalactite dripped perfection
into granite. He fingered
icons sunlight & anatase
never touched. Ibex carved
on a throwing stick, reindeer
worried into an ivory amulet,
& a bear’s head. Outside,
the men waited two days
for him, with condor & bovid,
& not in a thousand years
would he have dreamt a woman
standing here beside a man,
saying, “This is as good
as the stag at Salon Noir
& the polka-dotted horses.”
The man scribbles Leo loves
Angela below the boy’s last bear
drawn with manganese dioxide
& animal fat. This is where
sunrise opened a door in stone
when he was summoned to drink
honey wine & embrace a woman
beneath a five-pointed star.
Lying there beside the gods
hefty & silent as boulders,
he could almost remember
before he was born, could see
the cliff from which he’d fall. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Black Snow by Carl Adamshick

Black Snow 

I came home
from my mother’s funeral
to a house of my own making
to dust I didn’t want
to lift from a shelf
I came home astonished
by life being the same
struck dumb
when the knife
sunk into the melon

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Can You Describe Your Years in Prison? by Aria Aber

Can You Describe Your Years in Prison?

Over Skype, I try to document my mother’s
bald-shaved youth—she has a surplus in truths,
and science has proven what it had to prove:
every helicopter-screech I dreamed of was my mother’s first.
Rippling my dumb hand, I wake up in childhood’s crypt,
where prayer is keyless as a foreign laugh overheard
and on the Masjid’s cobalt globe a ghost … an angel?
No, no … who am I kidding. When I say God,
what I mean is: I can barely stand to look
at my mother’s face. So, what if I’ve never seen
what she’s seen. I took the shape of her two hundred
and six bones—I did not choose her eyes. Did not
choose to masticate the ash of witness,
her crooked smile disclosing a swarm of flies,
Yes, missiles hailed there, named after ancient gods.
Hera—a word of disputed root—maybe from Erate,
beloved. And because my beloved is not a person
but a place in a headline I point to and avert my gaze,
I can now ask: would I have given up my mother for an alyssum
instead of asylum? Or one glass of water that did not
contain war? Her wound isn’t mine, yet what I needed most
was our roof to collapse on her like earth around stones.
Rain, the hard absence of skin. The silence of it—
no gust in my goddess. No artificial wind.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Daffy Duck in Hollywood by John Ashbery

Daffy Duck in Hollywood
Something strange is creeping across me.
La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars
Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from
Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can
Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy
Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile
Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged
Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis
Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
Fling Terrace. He promised he'd get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit
Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call
Companionable. But everything is getting choked to the point of
Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky
Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically--
To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on
A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover. Suddenly all is
Loathing. I don't want to go back inside any more. You meet
Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no,
Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings,
The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of happy-go-nutty
Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little
White cardboard castle over the mill run. "Up
The lazy river, how happy we could be?"
How will it end? That geranium glow
Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the
Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into
A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner
(Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts
The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis
Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight micturition spree
On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little
Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie
Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes. Wait!
I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering,
Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles
And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore) leads to Tophet, that
Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which
Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin
Of a borborygmic giant who even now
Is rolling over on us in his sleep. Farewell bocages,
Tanneries, water-meadows. The allegory comes unsnarled
Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is
About all there is to be noted between tornadoes. I have
Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live
Which is like thinking in another language. Everything
Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me.
That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times"
Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in
Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should.
Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them
We live in one dimension, they in ours. While I
Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek
Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its
Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions
At each new parting of the ways. Pastel
Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals.
"It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing
Stands alone. What happened to creative evolution?"
Sighed Aglavaine. Then to her Sélysette: "If his
Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others,
What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once?
I have to stay here while they sit in there,
Laugh, drink, have fine time. In my day
One lay under the tough green leaves,
Pretending not to notice how they bled into
The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed
Not to concern us. And so we too
Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance,
Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically
Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then
Grew taciturn by previous agreement. We were spirited
Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark.
It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness
Of the finished product. True, to ask less were folly, yet
If he is the result of himself, how much the better
For him we ought to be! And how little, finally,
We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin
Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our
Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this,
Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves
Has been applauded in London and St. Petersburg. Somewhere
Ravens pray for us." The storm finished brewing. And thus
She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none
She found who ever heard of Amadis,
Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love. Some
They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all
By definition is completeness (so
In utter darkness they reasoned), why not
Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when
Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal
A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps
The pattern that may carry the sense, but
Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination.
Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's
Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces
The change as we would greet the change itself.
All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny
Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the
Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage
Shrouds our sense of it. Therefore bivouac we
On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by
Veiled scruples, worn conundrums. Morning is
Impermanent. Grab sex things, swing up
Over the horizon like a boy
On a fishing expedition. No one really knows
Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts
Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's
The tradition more than the safekeeping of it. This mulch for
Play keeps them interested and busy while the big,
Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what
Model cities, how much waste space. Life, our
Life anyway, is between. We don't mind
Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot
One, but have our earnest where it chances on us,
Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more,
Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Last Words by Rita Dove

Last Words

I don’t want to die in a poem
the words burning in eulogy
the sun howling why
the moon sighing why not
I don’t want to die in bed
which is a poem gone wrong
a world turned in on itself
a floating navel of dreams
I won’t meet death in a field
like a dot punctuating a page
it’s too vast yet too tiny
everyone will say it’s a bit cinematic
I don’t want to pass away in your arms
those gentle parentheses
nor expire outside of their swoon
self-propelled    determined    shouting
Let the end come
as the best parts of living have come
unsought and undeserved
now that’s a good death
what nonsense you say
that’s not even worth
writing down

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Fiction by Mark Strand


I think of innocent lives
Of people in novels who know they’ll die
But not that the novel will end. How different they are
From us. Here, the moon stares dumbly down,
Through scattered clouds, onto the sleeping town,
And the wind rounds up fallen leaves,
And somebody—namely me—deep in his chair,
Riffles the pages left, knowing there’s not
Much time for the man and woman in the rented room,
For the red light over the door, for the iris
Tossing its shadow against the wall; not much time
For the soldiers under the trees that line
The river, for the wounded being hauled away
To the cities of the interior where they will stay;
The war that raged for years will come to a close,
And so will everything else, except for a presence
Hard to define, a trace, like the scent of grass
After a night of rain or the remains of a voice
That lets us know without spelling it out
Not to despair; if the end is come, it too will pass.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Ode to Wattles by Sharon Olds

Ode to Wattles

I want to write about my wattles—oooo, I
lust after it,
I want to hold a mirror under my
chin so I can see the new
events in solid geometry
occurring below my jaw, which was
all bone till now, and now is jam-packed
reticule. I love to be a little
disgusting, to go as far as I can
into the thrilling unloveliness
of an elderwoman’s aging. It is like daring
time, and the ancient laws of eros,
at once. But when I look down,
into the compact’s pool, and see
my face hanging down from the bottom of my face,
like a raft woven of popsicle sticks,
my nursing-home neck,
then, though I’m willing to age and die
for there to be sex and children,
the slackness of the drapery, and the
inside-out pockets of the jowls shock me.
I thought it wouldn’t go so far with me
that I would be geology,
my throat a rippling of synclines and anticlines
back when the crust was warm, and I
was hot. Secretly, I don’t know yet
that I’m not, but I bow my head to time,
and count my withered chins, three five seven
nine, my muses, my truth which is not
beauty—my crone beauty, in its first youth. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

In the Event of by Shane McCrae

In the Event of

Officer how you know I’m dancing is the body
-cam. Look, I’m riding centuries of whips, the first half
Of the ghost, arms out the window up, the second half
Arms flat on the pavement, palms down, now the ghost is whole
My arms stretched forward, like I’m bowing, but if I
Were standing, stretched above my head. Officer how
You know I’m dead is that I seem to bow to you

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Stone by Charles Simić


Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.
From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river,
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.
I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed.
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star charts
On the inner walls.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Instructions for Living by Erika L. Sánchez

Instructions for Living

It was the way summer hunted me:
a sequence of instructions
in the folds of a flower.
How do I explain the hatred of the sun,
the terrible wonder of being alive?
Fuck the fucking birds. I looked
to the sky to join the storms. I couldn’t
have imagined you, swift as the lightning
I traced with my finger, a song scratched
into a back. I ached with the not-knowing.
On Mother’s Day I knelt and begged
for something to help me. Is that God?
I played “Here Comes the Sun”
in the psych ward and everyone
watched as I shook. This
is not true, I said. The sun
is already here. Hope was slight
as an eyelash. How clean the sky—
a cloud that posed as a spine.
There was no container
for my despair. In your face I saw
a sequence of instructions.
When you touched me, I named
the future: Be here. Stay living.
I was running once. Did I tell you
how I wept like that? I saw a fox—
my life bound into tricks. The past
is the past is the past. An idea grown
in the name of the obvious. How
a beloved becomes a stranger
and a stranger becomes a beloved.
I can hate what is true, the thick beauty
of it. I am always in the school of the dead:
a bracket, an aside, a reordering.
I tell you language is always a failure,
a string waiting to be plucked. A song
you love and cannot resolve.
What’s the difference between
rupture and rapture? Not even salt.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Aunties by Kevin Young


There’s a way a woman
          will not
her pocketbook
          even pulled
onstage, or called up
to the pulpit—
          there’s a way only
your Auntie can make it
taste right—
          rice & gravy
is a meal
if my late Great Aunt
          Toota makes it—
Aunts cook like
there’s no tomorrow
          & they’re right.
Too hot
is how my Aunt Tuddie
          peppers everything,
her name given
by my father, four, seeing
          her smiling in her crib.
There’s a barrel
full of rainwater
          beside the house
that my infant father will fall
into, trying to see
          himself—the bottom—
& there’s his sister
Margie yanking him out
          by his hair grown long
as superstition. Never mind
the flyswatter they chase you
          round the house
& into the yard with
ready to whup the daylights
          out of you—
that’s only a threat—
Aunties will fix you
          potato salad
& save
you some. Godmothers,
Aunts smoke like
it’s going out of style—
          & it is—
make even gold
teeth look right, shining,
          saying I’ll be
John, with a sigh. Make way
out of no way—
          keep the key
to the scale that weighed
the cotton, the cane
          we raised more
than our share of—
If not them, then who
          will win heaven?
holding tight
to their pocketbooks
          at the pearly gates
just in case.